nhaliday + rent-seeking   102

[1804.04268] Incomplete Contracting and AI Alignment
We suggest that the analysis of incomplete contracting developed by law and economics researchers can provide a useful framework for understanding the AI alignment problem and help to generate a systematic approach to finding solutions. We first provide an overview of the incomplete contracting literature and explore parallels between this work and the problem of AI alignment. As we emphasize, misalignment between principal and agent is a core focus of economic analysis. We highlight some technical results from the economics literature on incomplete contracts that may provide insights for AI alignment researchers. Our core contribution, however, is to bring to bear an insight that economists have been urged to absorb from legal scholars and other behavioral scientists: the fact that human contracting is supported by substantial amounts of external structure, such as generally available institutions (culture, law) that can supply implied terms to fill the gaps in incomplete contracts. We propose a research agenda for AI alignment work that focuses on the problem of how to build AI that can replicate the human cognitive processes that connect individual incomplete contracts with this supporting external structure.
nibble  preprint  org:mat  papers  ai  ai-control  alignment  coordination  contracts  law  economics  interests  culture  institutions  number  context  behavioral-econ  composition-decomposition  rent-seeking  whole-partial-many 
april 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
What era are our intuitions about elites and business adapted to? – Gene Expression
Above natural states are open-access orders, which characterize societies that have market economies and competitive politics. Here access to the elite is open to anyone who can prove themselves worthy — it is not artificially restricted in order to preserve large rents for the incumbents. The pie can be made bigger with more people at the top, since you only get to the top in such societies by making and selling things that people want. Elite members compete against each other based on the quality and price of the goods and services they sell — it’s a mercantile elite — rather than based on who is better at violence than the others. If the elites are flabby, upstarts can readily form their own organizations — as opposed to not having the freedom to do so — that, if better, will dethrone the incumbents. Since violence is no longer part of elite competition, homicide rates are the lowest of all types of societies.

OK, now let’s take a look at just two innate views that most people have about how the business world works or what economic elites are like, and see how these are adaptations to natural states rather than to the very new open-access orders (which have only existed in Western Europe since about 1850 or so). One is the conviction, common even among many businessmen, that market share matters more than making profits — that being more popular trumps being more profitable. The other is most people’s mistrust of companies that dominate their entire industry, like Microsoft in computers.
gnxp  scitariat  reflection  farmers-and-foragers  sapiens  instinct  politics  coalitions  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  political-econ  polisci  leviathan  north-weingast-like  unintended-consequences  open-closed  biases  government  markets  market-power  rent-seeking  capitalism  democracy  roots  EEA  inequality  egalitarianism-hierarchy  business  cost-benefit  interests  elite  hari-seldon 
december 2017 by nhaliday
As a foundation for this study, I organized the collection of village-level panel data on violent actors, managing teams of surveyors, village elders, and households in 380 war-torn areas of DRC. I introduce optimal taxation theory to the decision of violent actors to establish local monopolies of violence. The value of such decision hinges on their ability to tax the local population. A sharp rise in the global demand for coltan, a bulky commodity used in the electronics industry, leads violent actors to impose monopolies of violence and taxation in coltan sites, which persist even years after demand collapses. A similar rise in the demand for gold, easier to conceal and more difficult to tax, does not. However, the groups who nevertheless control gold sites are more likely to respond by undertaking investments in fiscal capacity, consistent with the difficulty to observe gold, and with well-documented trajectories of state formation in Europe (Ardant, 1975). The findings support the view that the expected revenue from taxation, determined in particular by tax base elasticity and costly investments in fiscal capacity, can explain the stages of state formation preceding the states as we recognize them today.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World by Josiah Ober, Barry Weingast :: SSRN
- Joshiah Ober, Barry Weingast

In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.

'Rulers Ruled by Women': An Economic Analysis of the Rise and Fall of Women's Rights in Ancient Sparta by Robert K. Fleck, F. Andrew Hanssen: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=788106
Throughout most of history, women as a class have possessed relatively few formal rights. The women of ancient Sparta were a striking exception. Although they could not vote, Spartan women reportedly owned 40 percent of Sparta's agricultural land and enjoyed other rights that were equally extraordinary. We offer a simple economic explanation for the Spartan anomaly. The defining moment for Sparta was its conquest of a neighboring land and people, which fundamentally changed the marginal products of Spartan men's and Spartan women's labor. To exploit the potential gains from a reallocation of labor - specifically, to provide the appropriate incentives and the proper human capital formation - men granted women property (and other) rights. Consistent with our explanation for the rise of women's rights, when Sparta lost the conquered land several centuries later, the rights for women disappeared. Two conclusions emerge that may help explain why women's rights have been so rare for most of history. First, in contrast to the rest of the world, the optimal (from the men's perspective) division of labor among Spartans involved women in work that was not easily monitored by men. Second, the rights held by Spartan women may have been part of an unstable equilibrium, which contained the seeds of its own destruction.
study  broad-econ  economics  polisci  political-econ  institutions  government  north-weingast-like  democracy  walls  correlation  polis  history  mediterranean  iron-age  the-classics  microfoundations  modernity  comparison  architecture  military  public-goodish  elite  civic  taxes  redistribution  canon  literature  big-peeps  conquest-empire  rent-seeking  defense  models  GT-101  incentives  urban  urban-rural  speculation  interdisciplinary  cliometrics  multi  civil-liberty  gender  gender-diff  equilibrium  cycles  branches  labor  interests  property-rights  unintended-consequences  explanation  explanans  analysis  econ-productivity  context  arrows  micro  natural-experiment 
november 2017 by nhaliday
The Political Typology: Beyond Red vs. Blue | Pew Research Center
The new typology has eight groups: Three are strongly ideological, highly politically engaged and overwhelmingly partisan – two on the right and one on the left. Steadfast Conservatives are staunch critics of government and the social safety net and are very socially conservative. Business Conservatives share Steadfast Conservatives’ preference for limited government, but differ in their support for Wall Street and business, as well as immigration reform. And Business Conservatives are far more moderate on social issues than are Steadfast Conservatives.

At the other end of the spectrum, Solid Liberals express liberal attitudes across almost every realm – government, the economy and business and foreign policy, as well as on race, homosexuality and abortion – and are reliable and loyal Democratic voters.

Taken together, these three groups form the electoral base of the Democratic and Republican Parties, and their influence on American politics is strong. While Solid Liberals, Steadfast Conservatives and Business Conservatives collectively make up only 36% of the American public, they represent 43% of registered voters and fully 57% of the more politically engaged segment of the American public: those who regularly vote and routinely follow government and public affairs.

The other typology groups are less partisan, less predictable and have little in common with each other or the groups at either end of the political spectrum. The one thing they do share is that they are less engaged politically than the groups on the right or left.

Young Outsiders lean Republican but do not have a strong allegiance to the Republican Party; in fact they tend to dislike both political parties. On many issues, from their support for environmental regulation to their liberal views on social issues, they diverge from traditional GOP orthodoxy. Yet in their support for limited government, Young Outsiders are firmly in the Republicans’ camp.

Hard-Pressed Skeptics have been battered by the struggling economy, and their difficult financial circumstances have left them resentful of both government and business. Despite their criticism of government performance, they back more generous government support for the poor and needy. Most Hard-Pressed Skeptics say they voted for Obama in 2012, though fewer than half approve of his job performance today.

The Next Generation Left are young, relatively affluent and very liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. But they have reservations about the cost of social programs. And while most of the Next Generation Left support affirmative action, they decisively reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason why many blacks are unable to get ahead.

The Faith and Family Left lean Democratic, based on their confidence in government and support for federal programs to address the nation’s problems. But this very religious, racially and ethnically diverse group is uncomfortable with the pace of societal change, including the acceptance of homosexuality and non-traditional family structures.

And finally, an eighth group, the Bystanders, representing 10% of the public, are on the sidelines of the political process. They are not registered to vote and pay very little attention to politics.


The Faith and Family Left is by far the most racially and ethnically diverse group in the typology: In fact, just 41% are white non-Hispanic; 30% are black, 19% are Hispanic and 8% are other or mixed race. The Faith and Family Left also is less affluent and less educated than the other Democratically-oriented groups, and is older as well.

They also have strong religious convictions, which distinguishes them from Solid Liberals and the Next Generation Left. Fully 91% say “it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.” No more than about one-in-ten in the other Democratically-oriented groups agree. And the Faith and Family Left have much more conservative positions on social issues. Just 37% favor same-sex marriage, less than half the share of the other two groups on the left.

The Faith and Family Left support activist government and a strong social safety net, though by less overwhelming margins than Solid Liberals. And while the Faith and Family Left support affirmative action programs, just 31% believe that “racial discrimination is the main reason many black people can’t get ahead these days.” Among the much less racially diverse Solid Liberals, 80% think racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress.


First, Steadfast Conservatives take very conservative views on key social issues like homosexuality and immigration, while Business Conservatives are less conservative – if not actually progressive – on these issues. Nearly three-quarters of Steadfast Conservatives (74%) believe that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Among Business Conservatives, just 31% think homosexuality should be discouraged; 58% believe it should be accepted.

Business Conservatives have generally positive attitudes toward immigrants and 72% favor a “path to citizenship” for those in the U.S. illegally, if they meet certain conditions. Steadfast Conservatives are more critical of immigrants; 50% support a path to citizenship, the lowest share of any typology group.

Second, just as Steadfast Conservatives are opposed to big government, they also are skeptical of big business. They believe that large corporations have too much power, and nearly half (48%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests. By contrast, as their name suggests, Business Conservatives are far more positive about the free market, and overwhelmingly regard business – and Wall Street – positively.

group profiles (including demographics): http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/appendix-1-typology-group-profiles/

2017 redux:
Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left: http://www.people-press.org/2017/10/24/political-typology-reveals-deep-fissures-on-the-right-and-left/
Nearly a year after Donald Trump was elected president, the Republican coalition is deeply divided on such major issues as immigration, America’s role in the world and the fundamental fairness of the U.S. economic system.

The Democratic coalition is largely united in staunch opposition to President Trump. Yet, while Trump’s election has triggered a wave of political activism within the party’s sizable liberal bloc, the liberals’ sky-high political energy is not nearly as evident among other segments in the Democratic base. And Democrats also are internally divided over U.S. global involvement, as well as some religious and social issues.


Divisions on the right

The political typology finds two distinctly different groups on the right – Core Conservatives and Country First Conservatives, who both overwhelmingly approve of Trump, but disagree on much else – including immigration and whether it benefits the U.S. to be active internationally.

Core Conservatives, who are in many ways the most traditional group of Republicans, have an outsized influence on the GOP coalition; while they make up just 13% of the public – and about a third (31%) of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – they constitute a much larger share (43%) of politically engaged Republicans.

This financially comfortable, male-dominated group overwhelmingly supports smaller government, lower corporate tax rates and believes in the fairness of the nation’s economic system. And a large majority of Core Conservatives (68%) express a positive view of U.S. involvement in the global economy “because it provides the U.S. with new markets and opportunities for growth.”

Country First Conservatives, a much smaller segment of the GOP base, are older and less educated than other Republican-leaning typology groups. Unlike Core Conservatives, Country First Conservatives are unhappy with the nation’s course, highly critical of immigrants and deeply wary of U.S. global involvement.

Nearly two-thirds of Country First Conservatives (64%) – the highest share of any typology group, right or left – say that “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

A third Republican group, Market Skeptic Republicans, sharply diverges from the GOP’s traditional support for business and lower taxes. Only about a third of Market Skeptic Republicans (34%) say banks and other financial institutions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, lowest among Republican-leaning typology groups.

Alone among the groups in the GOP coalition, a majority of Market Skeptic Republicans support raising tax rates on corporations and large businesses. An overwhelming share (94%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, which places the view of Market Skeptic Republicans on this issue much closer to Solid Liberals (99% mostly unfair) than Core Conservatives (21%).

In contrast to Market Skeptic Republicans, New Era Enterprisers are fundamentally optimistic about the state of the nation and its future. They are more likely than any other typology group to say the next generation of Americans will have it better than people today. Younger and somewhat less overwhelmingly white than the other GOP-leaning groups, New Era Enterprisers are strongly pro-business and generally think that immigrants strengthen, rather than burden, the country.

Divisions on the left


While there have long been racial, ethnic and income differences within the Democratic coalition, these gaps are especially striking today. Reflecting the changing demographic composition of the Democratic base, for the first time there are two majority-minority Democratic-leaning typology groups, along with two more affluent, mostly white groups.

Solid Liberals are the largest group in the Democratic coalition, and they make up close to half (48%) of politically engaged Democrats and Democratic-leaning … [more]
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Farm (revenue leasing) - Wikipedia
Tax farming was originally a Roman practice whereby the burden of tax collection was reassigned by the Roman State to private individuals or groups. In essence, these individuals or groups paid the taxes for a certain area and for a certain period of time and then attempted to cover their outlay by collecting money or saleable goods from the people within that area.[5] The system was set up by Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC primarily to increase the efficiency of tax collection within Rome itself but the system quickly spread to the Provinces.[6] Within the Roman Empire, these private individuals and groups which collected taxes in lieu of the bid (i.e. rent) they had paid to the state were known as publicani, of whom the best known is the disciple Matthew, a publicanus in the village of Capernaum in the province of Galilee. The system was widely abused, and reforms were enacted by Augustus and Diocletian.[7] Tax farming practices are believed to have contributed to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in Western Europe.[8]
concept  finance  ORFE  taxes  political-econ  institutions  government  leviathan  wiki  reference  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  gibbon  roots  britain  broad-econ  economics  rent-seeking 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.


When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.


If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.


Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.


Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.


First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.


Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Does Polarization Imply Poor Representation? A New Perspective on the “Disconnect” Between Politicians and Voters*
Broockman-Ahler 2015

immigration positions under B.2: http://www.dougahler.com/uploads/2/4/6/9/24697799/ahler_broockman_ideological_innocence.pdf#page=42
distribution: http://www.dougahler.com/uploads/2/4/6/9/24697799/ahler_broockman_ideological_innocence.pdf#page=53

38% support immediate mass deportation of all illegals (Broockman 2015). This view has zero representation in either house of congress.

Do you understand the GOP play here by the way? I'm genuinely puzzled. Is it a moral conviction? Because it can't be a vote play.
In my view it's a mix of mindless sentimentality, the donor class, and existing in an hermetically sealed ideological bubble.

cheap labor lobby, public choice (votes), & subversive elites gripped by multiculti zealotry

In a 2014 radio interview, Paul Ryan was asked if "immigrants from the 3rd world are more or less likely to support conservative policies":
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Montesquieu, Causes of the Greatness of the Romans
What makes free states last a shorter time than others is that both the misfortunes and the successes they encounter almost always cause them to lose their freedom. In a state where the people are held in subjection, however, successes and misfortunes alike confirm their servitude. A wise republic should hazard nothing that exposes it to either good or bad fortune. The only good to which it should aspire is the perpetuation of its condition.

If the greatness of the empire ruined the republic, the greatness of the city ruined it no less.

Rome had subjugated the whole world with the help of the peoples of Italy, to whom it had at different times given various privileges.2;a At first most of these peoples did not care very much about the right of Roman citizenship, and some preferred to keep their customs.3 But when this right meant universal sovereignty, and a man was nothing in the world if he was not a Roman citizen and everything if he was, the peoples of Italy resolved to perish or become Romans. Unable to succeed by their intrigues and entreaties, they took the path of arms. They revolted all along the coast of the Ionian sea; the other allies started to follow them.4 Forced to fight against those who were, so to speak, the hands with which it enslaved the world, Rome was lost. It was going to be reduced to its walls; it therefore accorded the coveted right of citizenship to the allies who had not yet ceased being loyal,5 and gradually to all.

After this, Rome was no longer a city whose people had but a single spirit, a single love of liberty, a single hatred

a In extent and importance, Latin rights were between Roman and Italian rights.

of tyranny — a city where the jealousy of the senate's power and the prerogatives of the great, always mixed with respect, was only a love of equality. Once the peoples of Italy became its citizens, each city brought to Rome its genius, its particular interests, and its dependence on some great protector.6 The distracted city no longer formed a complete whole. And since citizens were such only by a kind of fiction, since they no longer had the same magistrates, the same walls, the same gods, the same temples, and the same graves, they no longer saw Rome with the same eyes, no longer had the same love of country, and Roman sentiments were no more.

The ambitious brought entire cities and nations to Rome to disturb the voting or get themselves elected. The assemblies were veritable conspiracies; a band of seditious men was called a comitia.b The people's authority, their laws and even the people themselves became chimerical things, and the anarchy was such that it was no longer possible to know whether the people had or had not adopted an ordinance.7

We hear in the authors only of the dissensions that ruined Rome, without seeing that these dissensions were necessary to it, that they had always been there and always had to be. It was the greatness of the republic that caused all the trouble and changed popular tumults into civil wars. There had to be dissensions in Rome, for warriors who were so proud, so audacious, so terrible abroad could not be very moderate at home. To ask for men in a free state who are bold in war and timid in peace is to wish the impossible. And, as a general rule, whenever we see everyone tranquil in a state that calls itself a republic, we can be sure that liberty does not exist there.

What is called union in a body politic is a very equivocal thing. The true kind is a union of harmony, whereby all the

b These were the assemblies into which the Roman people were organized for electoral purposes.

parts, however opposed they may appear, cooperate for the general good of society — as dissonances in music cooperate in producing overall concord. In a state where we seem to see nothing but commotion there can be union — that is, a harmony resulting in happiness, which alone is true peace. It is as with the parts of the universe, eternally linked together by the action of some and the reaction of others.

But, in the concord of Asiatic despotism — that is, of all government which is not moderate — there is always real dissension. The worker, the soldier, the lawyer, the magistrate, the noble are joined only inasmuch as some oppress the others without resistance. And, if we see any union there, it is not citizens who are united but dead bodies buried one next to the other.

It is true that the laws of Rome became powerless to govern the republic. But it is a matter of common observation that good laws, which have made a small republic grow large, become a burden to it when it is enlarged. For they were such that their natural effect was to create a great people, not to govern it.

There is a considerable difference between good laws and expedient laws — between those that enable a people to make itself master of others, and those that maintain its power once it is acquired.

There exists in the world at this moment a republic that hardly anyone knows about,8 and that — in secrecy and silence — increases its strength every day. Certainly, if it ever attains the greatness for which its wisdom destines it, it will necessarily change its laws. And this will not be the work of a legislator but of corruption itself.

Rome was made for expansion, and its laws were admirable for this purpose. Thus, whatever its government had been — whether the power of kings, aristocracy, or a popular state — it never ceased undertaking enterprises that made demands on its conduct, and succeeded in them. It did not prove wiser than all the other states on earth for a day, but continually. It. sustained meager, moderate and great prosperity with the same superiority, and had neither successes from which it did not profit, nor misfortunes of which it made no use.

It lost its liberty because it completed the work it wrought too soon.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016
We find that official survey-based measures vastly under-estimate the rise of inequality since 1990. According to our benchmark estimates, top income shares are now similar to (or higher than) the levels observed in the United States. We also find that inequality has increased substantially more in Russia than in China and other ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe. We relate this finding to the specific transition strategy followed in Russia. According to our benchmark estimates, the wealth held offshore by rich Russians is about three times larger than official net foreign reserves, and is comparable in magnitude to total household financial assets held in Russia.

Figure 1a, 8abc, 9b

The Role of Oligarchs in Russian Capitalism: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0895330053147994

Using a unique dataset, we describe the degree of ownership concentration in Russian economy and its role in shaping economic and political institutions in Russia. In particular, we find that Russian "oligarchs" do control a substantial part of the economy. While the relative weight of their firms in Russian economy is huge, they do not seem to be excessively large by the standards of the global economy where most of them are operating. The oligarchs seem to run their firms more efficiently than other Russian owners controlling for industry, region and size.

Russia's Billionaires: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.p20161068

Using data collected by Forbes since the 1990s, I examine the emergence and survival of the super-wealthy in Russia over the past two decades and compare Russia's record to those of other countries. The major surge in the number of Russian billionaires came in the mid-2000s, mirroring the dynamic worldwide. While early billionaires were predominantly found in the oil, gas, metals, and banking sectors, the distribution has become more diverse, now including some in trade, real estate, chemicals, and information technology. Only a minority of today's Russian billionaires acquired significant assets in the privatization of the 1990s.

Popular Attitudes towards Markets and Democracy: Russia and United States Compared 25 Years Later: http://www.nber.org/papers/w22027

While we find some differences in attitudes towards markets across countries and through time, we do not find most of the differences large or significant. Our evidence does not support a common view that the Russian personality is fundamentally illiberal or non-democratic.

The Political Economy of Transition: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/0895330027102
- Gérard Roland, 2002

The overriding importance of political constraints in the transition process has led to developments of the theory of the political economy of reform. What are the main insights from that theory? How does it reflect the transition reality? What have we learned, and what do we still need to learn? The present article will attempt to answer those questions.

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august 2017 by nhaliday
Vioxx | West Hunter
The Vigor study was submitted in February 2001. The New England Journal of Medicine, a few months later, found that the authors had failed to mention some strokes and heart attacks near the end of the trial. The authors used a cutoff for cardiovascular effects (bad news) that was earlier than the cutoff for gastrointestinal effects (good news). why? Because they were weasels, of course. There was a lot of money riding on this drug’s success.

Other people began to notice the increased heart risks – looking at data from HMOs and such. Merck fought back. There was an MD at Stanford that was concerned about Vioxx: Merck called up the dean of Stanford Medical School at home and warned him about possible loss of financial support: he told them to go fuck themselves.


Now it is true that there were studies that showed greater efficacy: 21 such were reported by Scott S. Reuben, former chief of acute pain at Baystate medical Center in Springfield Mass. But as it turns out, he made them all up. There’s is no evidence that Merck knew about this, but it does perhaps say something about the general climate in big pharma.

Merck knew the gist of this for four years before they pulled the plug on the drug. They had their their drug reps lie about cardio risks, threatened researchers and sued journals that talked about the emerging cardio risks. Few physicians were aware of these risks, even though a close reading of the journals would have suggested it – because hardly any physicians read the journals.

Epidemiologists think that Vioxx caused something like 40,000 deaths.


In the 70s corporations were the bad guys, whether they were or not. Today, billionaires are your friend.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Economics of corruption - Wikipedia
In 1968, Nobel laureate economist Gunnar Myrdal found corruption 'almost a taboo (among economists) as research topic'. Indeed, it has mostly been a matter of political science and sociology. However, the scenario changed since the 1970s. Since Rose-Ackerman's article "The Economics of Corruption", published in the Journal of Public Economics in 1975,[1] more than 3,000 articles have been written with 'corruption' in the title, at least 500 of which directly focus on different aspects relating to corruption using an economic framework.[2] Some books have also been published on the subject.[3]

Organizations have emerged to deal with the economics of corruption.[4] Some universities offer courses under the title Economics of Corruption.[5] Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker and an American Judge Richard Posner have opened a blog for open public discussion discussing economics of corruption [6]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Yale Law Journal - Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

Amazon Must Be Stopped: https://newrepublic.com/article/119769/amazons-monopoly-must-be-broken-radical-plan-tech-giant

Amazon Will Go To Denver: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/09/10/amazon-will-go-to-denver/
Real things cities are offering to get Amazon HQ2
*Chicago: Let Amazon keep employees' income tax
*SoCal: Give away $100M in land
*Boston: City employees working just for Amazon
*Fresno: Let Amazon decide how to spend tax dollars

Washington, D.C., might have a leg up, having already hosted Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos for visits when he considered acquiring the Washington Post, which he now owns. Mr. Bezos also purchased the former Textile Museum in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood for $23 million in 2016 and is currently turning it into a private residence.

28-year-old makes millions buying from Walmart, selling on Amazon: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/28-year-old-makes-millions-buying-from-walmart-selling-on-amazon/ar-AAupB8i

Thread: Why Amazon’s HQ2 is going to Fairfax County


walmart is the only entity that has even a slim chance at preventing jeff bezos from intermediating every commodity exchange in the world, u must respect

"I tried to save you, but you didn't listen. Now you'll have to face Him alone..."

What Amazon does to wages: https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21735020-worlds-largest-retailer-underpaying-its-employees-what-amazon-does-wages
Is the world’s largest retailer underpaying its employees?

Flat or falling industry wages are common in the cities and towns where Amazon opens distribution centres, according to an analysis by The Economist. Government figures show that after Amazon opens a storage depot, local wages for warehouse workers fall by an average of 3%. In places where Amazon operates, such workers earn about 10% less than similar workers employed elsewhere.

What Amazon Does to Poor Cities: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/02/amazon-warehouses-poor-cities/552020/
The debate over Amazon’s HQ2 obscures the company’s rapid expansion of warehouses in low-income areas.

The Facts Behind Trump’s Tweets on Amazon, Taxes and the Postal Service: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/us/politics/trump-amazon-post-office-fact-check.html

If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon Has a Patent for It.): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/technology/amazon-wristband-tracking-privacy.html

auto-management -> automation dystopia: http://marshallbrain.com/manna.htm

Amazon’s vision for the future: delivery drone beehives in every city: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/23/15860668/amazon-drone-delivery-patent-city-centers
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Is America Encouraging the Wrong Kind of Entrepreneurship?
Of Baumol’s many contributions to economics, the most famous is cost disease, which explains why high-productivity industries raise costs and therefore prices in low-productivity industries. The insight is particularly relevant now, as economic activity has shifted into low-productivity services like health care and education, where price increases are devouring public and household budgets, and whose continued low productivity has weighed down U.S. productivity growth overall.

But there’s a lesser-known idea of Baumol’s that is equally relevant today and that may help explain America’s productivity slump. Baumol’s writing raises the possibility that U.S. productivity is low because would-be entrepreneurs are focused on the wrong kind of work.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Tyler Cowen on Brexit, Steven Pinker, and Joseph McCarthy | askblog
Also, in my other post today, I mention an event on plutocracy co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute and The American Interest. Tyler Cowen makes remarks that have little or nothing to do with the article that he wrote for the event. Two of his more provocative opinions:

1. Steven Pinker may be wrong. Rather than mass violence following a benign trend, it could be cyclical. When there is a long peace, people become complacent, they allow bad leaders to take power and to run amok, and you get mass violence again. (Cowen argues that there are more countries now run by bad people than was the case a couple of decades ago)

2. Joseph McCarthy was not wrong. There were Soviet agents in influential positions. Regardless of what you think of that, the relevant point is that today Chinese and Russian plutocrats may have their tentacles in the U.S. and may be subtly causing the U.S. to be less of a liberal capitalist nation and more of a cronyist plutocracy.

hmm, the USPS stuff here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:fc443b256b1a
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Fig. 1: maximum possible Gini index still allowing subsistence of population (all surplus redistributed to 1 head honcho)
Fig. 2: scatter plot of Gini vs income, as well as possibility frontier

Ye Olde Inæqualitee Shoppe: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/10/01/inequality-possibility-frontier/
Gini indices, mean income, maximum feasible Gini, and "inequality extraction ratios" (gini2/max poss. inequality): https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/blwpg263.pdf
Growth and inequality in the great and little divergence debate: a Japanese perspective: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ehr.12071/epdf
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution
The evidence does not provide any support for several other views, most notably, that evolved institutions are inherently superior to those 'designed'; that institutions must be 'appropriate' and cannot be 'transplanted'; and that the civil code and other French institutions have adverse economic effects.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation
- Ekelund, Hébert, Tollison

This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discrimination, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good "spiritual services" on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil governments. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination. Informal tests of this proposition are conducted by considering primogeniture and urban growth as proxies for wealth stability.

Causes and Consequences of the Protestant Reformation: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/becker-pfaff-rubin-2016.pdf
- Sascha O. Becker, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin

The Protestant Reformation is one of the defining events of the last millennium. Nearly 500 years after the Reformation, its causes and consequences have seen a renewed interest in the social sciences. Research in economics, sociology, and political science increasingly uses detailed individual-level, city-level, and regional-level data to identify drivers of the adoption of the Reformation, its diffusion pattern, and its socioeconomic consequences. We take stock of this research, pointing out what we know and what we do not know and suggesting the most promising areas for future research.

Table 1: Studies of the Supply and Demand-Side Factors of the Reformation
Table 2: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Human Capital
Table 3: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Work and Work Ethic
Table 4: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Economic Development
Table 5: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Governance
Table 6: Studies on the “Dark” Consequences of the Reformation

LUTHER AND SULEYMAN: http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.tw/stable/40506214
- Murat Iyigun

Various historical accounts have suggested that the Ottomans' rise helped the Protestant Reformation as well as its offshoots, such as Zwinglianism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism, survive their infancy and mature. Utilizing a comprehensive data set on violent confrontations for the interval between 1401 and 1700 CE, I show that the incidence of military engagements between the Protestant Reformers and the Counter-Reformation forces between the 1520s and 1650s depended negatively on the Ottomans' military activities in Europe. Furthermore, I document that the impact of the Ottomans on Europe went beyond suppressing ecclesiastical conflicts only: at the turn of the sixteenth century, Ottoman conquests lowered the number of all newly initiated conflicts among the Europeans roughly by 25 percent, while they dampened all longer-running feuds by more than 15 percent. The Ottomans' military activities influenced the length of intra-European feuds too, with each Ottoman-European military engagement shortening the duration of intra-European conflicts by more than 50 percent. Thus, while the Protestant Reformation might have benefited from - and perhaps even capitalized on - the Ottoman advances in Europe, the latter seems to have played some role in reducing conflicts within Europe more generally.

Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: http://www.jeremiahdittmar.com/files/RRR_20170919.pdf
- Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, Noam Yuchtman*

Using novel microdata, we document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation: a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To understand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources had important consequences. First, it shifted the allocation of upper-tail human capital. Graduates of Protestant universities increasingly took secular, especially administrative, occupations. Protestant university students increasingly studied secular subjects, especially degrees that prepared students for public sector jobs, rather than church sector-specific theology. Second, it affected the sectoral composition of fixed investment. Particularly in Protestant regions, new construction from religious toward secular purposes, especially the building of palaces and administrative buildings, which reflected the increased wealth and power of secular lords. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences. Our findings indicate that the Reformation played an important causal role in the secularization of the West.

look at Figure 4, holy shit

History: Science and the Reformation: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v550/n7677/full/550454a.html?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews&sf126429621=1
The scientific and religious revolutions that began 500 years ago were not causally related, but were both stimulated by printing, argues David Wootton.
No, the Reformation did not cause the scientific revolution. Nice brief article. 👍

No RCT = No causal claims, for or against ;)
Though I'm open to a regression discontinuity design! cc: @pseudoerasmus
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Limits of Public Choice Theory – Jacobite
Many people believe that politics is difficult because of incentives: voters vote for their self interest; bureaucrats deliberately don’t solve problems to enlarge their departments; and elected officials maximize votes for power and sell out to lobbyists. But this cynical view is mostly wrong—politics, insofar as it has problems, has problems not because people are selfish—it has problems because people have wrong ideas. In fact, people mostly act surprisingly altruistically, motivated by trying to do good for their country.


I got into politics and ideas as a libertarian. I was attracted by the idea of public choice as a universal theory of politics. It’s intuitively appealing, methodologically individualist, and it supported all of the things I already believed. And it’s definitely true to some extent—there is a huge amount of evidence that it affects things somewhat. But it’s terrible as a general theory of politics in the developed world. Our policies are bad because voters are ignorant and politicians believe in things too much, not because everyone is irredeemably cynical and atavistic.

interesting take, HBD?: https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/869882831572434946

recommended by Garett Jones:
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutional Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England
The article studies the evolution of the constitutional arrangements in seventeenth-century England following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It focuses on the relationship between institutions and the behavior of the government and interprets the institutional changes on the basis of the goals of the winners secure property rights, protection of their wealth, and the elimination of confiscatory government. We argue that the new institutions allowed the government to commit credibly to upholding property rights. Their success was remarkable, as the evidence from capital markets shows.

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may 2017 by nhaliday
Assortive mating and income inequality | West Hunter
More than in the past, we have doctors marrying other doctors, rather than nurses, basically because of an increase in assortative mating for education. Ceteris paribus, this would tend to cause greater income equality among families. Is it the main driver of increasing income inequality?

Not at all. Most of the increase over the last 30 years has been among business executives and people working in finance. Since 1979, 58% of the expansion of income of the top 1% of households has this origin. For the top 0.1% of households, it’s been 67%.


Now I’m about to say something a little dangerous – so get your nitroglycerin pills ready.

Maybe those finance guys and CEOs are delivering enormously more value than they did in the 1950s!

For those remaining readers that haven’t died laughing, increased assortative mating probably has contributed to income inequality. Just not very much. Changes in the tax code, outsourcing, automation, smothering the board of directors in cream, and inattentive stockholders all matter more.

capital gains: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/assortive-mating-and-income-inequality/#comment-24318
Educational Homogamy and Assortative Mating Have Not Increased: http://sci-hub.cc/http://www.nber.org/papers/w22927.pdf
1960-2010, so all post WW2
Highly educated women partner more often “downwards” and medium educated women partner less often “upwards”
The new assortative mating (phenotypical, perhaps no change in genotypical assortative mating) due to women outnumbering men at university
If this means less genotypic assortative mating, then BAD NEWS: the smart fraction will shrink, and #decline will accelerate
Counterrevolutionary and reactionary elements warned it was a mistake to debauch higher education by over-expansion. Maybe they were right?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Out-of-Town Home Buyers and City Welfare by Jack Y Favilukis, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh :: SSRN
An inflow of OOT real estate buyers pushes up prices, rents, and wages. It increases the concentration of young, high-productivity, and wealthy households in the city center (gentrification). When OOT investors buy 10% of the housing stock, city welfare goes down by 0.3% of permanent consumption levels. The average renter suffers a large welfare loss while the average owner gains modestly. We calibrate the model to the New York metro area using data on OOT purchases.The observed increase in OOT purchases is associated with 1.1% higher house prices and a 0.1% welfare loss.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Housing Constraints and Spatial Misallocation
We quantify the amount of spatial misallocation of labor across US cities and its aggregate costs. Misallocation arises because high productivity cities like New York and the San Francisco Bay Area have adopted stringent restrictions to new housing supply, effectively limiting the number of workers who have access to such high productivity. Using a spatial equilibrium model and data from 220 metropolitan areas we find that these constraints lowered aggregate US growth by more than 50% from 1964 to 2009.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Why Are Economists Giving Piketty the Cold Shoulder? | Boston Review
- Marshall Steinbaum (seems like a tool from Twitter)

In a review in Democracy, Lawrence Summers, perhaps the foremost representative of the economics elite at the highest reaches of the recent policymaking apparatus, ushered in what became the academic establishment’s agreed-upon reason for dismissing Capital in the Twenty-First Century, aside from its empirical contribution: that Piketty’s theory that the marginal value of capital diminishes more slowly than capital itself accumulates (hence, the famous formulation, r > g) is at odds with econometric evidence suggesting the opposite conclusion about the “marginal elasticity of substitution” between labor and capital. Hence it cannot be that a rising capital-to-income ratio causes a rising capital share of national income and—since the owners of capital are, to an increasing degree, exclusively among the rich—rising income and wealth inequality.

Matthew Rognlie—then a doctoral student, now an assistant professor at Northwestern—took up that line in even greater detail in an article that eventually appeared in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, to which he added that the rising capital-to-income ratio in Piketty’s data is disproportionately the result of the price appreciation of certain scarce stores of wealth, primarily housing and the land it sits on, not the quantity accumulation of productive capital that is the subject of the neoclassical theory of economic growth.

Finally, Jason Furman and Peter Orszag, two senior economic policymakers in Democratic administrations, released “A Firm-Level Perspective on the Role of Rents in the Rise in Inequality,” which, while not a direct response to Capital in the Twenty-First Century, took indirect issue with foregrounding the shift in national income from labor to capital and with Piketty’s story of rising inequality within the distribution of labor income: that it results from the increased power of top executives in a within-firm bargaining context. Instead they highlight rising dispersion of both firm-level profits and earnings as driving inequality dynamics between an in-group at the highest-profit, highest-earning firms, and everyone else.

Forget article's title/framing! It's a great overview of the theoretical & methodological issues occasioned by Piketty, critics, & followers
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Concentration and Growth | Dietrich Vollrath
Ultimately, and this is my impression, not some kind of established fact, concentration likely lowers innovative activity. Put it this way, the null hypothesis should probably be that concentration lowers innovation. An individual industry needs to provide evidence they are on the “right side of the curve” in the first AAH figure to believe concentration would be good for productivity growth in the long run.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?



Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Roman State and Genetic Pacification - Peter Frost, 2010
- Table 1 is a good summary, but various interesting tidbits throughout
main points:
- latrones reminds me of bandit-states, Big Men in anthropology, and Rome's Indo-European past
- started having trouble recruiting soldiers, population less martial
- Church opposition to State violence, preferred to 'convert enemies by prayer'
- a Christian could use violence 'only to defend others and not for self-defense'
- Altar of Victory was more metaphorical than idolatrous, makes its removal even more egregious


should read:
BANDITS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE: http://sci-hub.tw/http://academic.oup.com/past/article-abstract/105/1/3/1442375/BANDITS-IN-THE-ROMAN-EMPIRE
Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and reality: https://historicalunderbelly.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/thoma-grunewald-bandits-in-the-roman-empire-myth-and-reality-2004.pdf

What Difference Did Christianity Make?: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435970
Author(s): Ramsay Mac Mullen

The extent of this impact I test in five areas. The first two have to do with domestic relations: sexual norms and slavery. The latter three have to do with matters in which public authorities were more involved: gladiatorial shows, judicial penalties, and corruption.

Clark/Frost Domestication: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/clarkfrost-domestication/
Thinking about the response of the pacified and submission Roman population to barbarian invaders immediately brings to mind the response of contemporary North Americans and Atlantic Europeans to barbarian invaders. It reads just the same: “welcome new neighbor!”

What about the Eastern empire? They kept the barbarians out for a few centuries longer in the European half, but accounts of the loss of the Asian provinces show the Clark/Frost pattern, a pacified submissive population hardly contesting the invasion of Islam (Jenkins 2008, 2010). The new neighbors simply walked in and took over. The downfall of the Western Roman empire reads much like the downfall of the Asian and North African parts of the empire. It is certainly no accident that the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity.

This all brings up an interesting question: what happened in East Asia over the same period? No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

gwern in da comments
“empires domesticate their people”
Greg said in our book something like “for the same reason that farmers castrate their bulls”
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may 2017 by nhaliday
'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' by Thomas Piketty, reviewed | New Republic
by Robert Solow (positive)

The data then exhibit a clear pattern. In France and Great Britain, national capital stood fairly steadily at about seven times national income from 1700 to 1910, then fell sharply from 1910 to 1950, presumably as a result of wars and depression, reaching a low of 2.5 in Britain and a bit less than 3 in France. The capital-income ratio then began to climb in both countries, and reached slightly more than 5 in Britain and slightly less than 6 in France by 2010. The trajectory in the United States was slightly different: it started at just above 3 in 1770, climbed to 5 in 1910, fell slightly in 1920, recovered to a high between 5 and 5.5 in 1930, fell to below 4 in 1950, and was back to 4.5 in 2010.

The wealth-income ratio in the United States has always been lower than in Europe. The main reason in the early years was that land values bulked less in the wide open spaces of North America. There was of course much more land, but it was very cheap. Into the twentieth century and onward, however, the lower capital-income ratio in the United States probably reflects the higher level of productivity: a given amount of capital could support a larger production of output than in Europe. It is no surprise that the two world wars caused much less destruction and dissipation of capital in the United States than in Britain and France. The important observation for Piketty’s argument is that, in all three countries, and elsewhere as well, the wealth-income ratio has been increasing since 1950, and is almost back to nineteenth-century levels. He projects this increase to continue into the current century, with weighty consequences that will be discussed as we go on.


Now if you multiply the rate of return on capital by the capital-income ratio, you get the share of capital in the national income. For example, if the rate of return is 5 percent a year and the stock of capital is six years worth of national income, income from capital will be 30 percent of national income, and so income from work will be the remaining 70 percent. At last, after all this preparation, we are beginning to talk about inequality, and in two distinct senses. First, we have arrived at the functional distribution of income—the split between income from work and income from wealth. Second, it is always the case that wealth is more highly concentrated among the rich than income from labor (although recent American history looks rather odd in this respect); and this being so, the larger the share of income from wealth, the more unequal the distribution of income among persons is likely to be. It is this inequality across persons that matters most for good or ill in a society.


The data are complicated and not easily comparable across time and space, but here is the flavor of Piketty’s summary picture. Capital is indeed very unequally distributed. Currently in the United States, the top 10 percent own about 70 percent of all the capital, half of that belonging to the top 1 percent; the next 40 percent—who compose the “middle class”—own about a quarter of the total (much of that in the form of housing), and the remaining half of the population owns next to nothing, about 5 percent of total wealth. Even that amount of middle-class property ownership is a new phenomenon in history. The typical European country is a little more egalitarian: the top 1 percent own 25 percent of the total capital, and the middle class 35 percent. (A century ago the European middle class owned essentially no wealth at all.) If the ownership of wealth in fact becomes even more concentrated during the rest of the twenty-first century, the outlook is pretty bleak unless you have a taste for oligarchy.

Income from wealth is probably even more concentrated than wealth itself because, as Piketty notes, large blocks of wealth tend to earn a higher return than small ones. Some of this advantage comes from economies of scale, but more may come from the fact that very big investors have access to a wider range of investment opportunities than smaller investors. Income from work is naturally less concentrated than income from wealth. In Piketty’s stylized picture of the United States today, the top 1 percent earns about 12 percent of all labor income, the next 9 percent earn 23 percent, the middle class gets about 40 percent, and the bottom half about a quarter of income from work. Europe is not very different: the top 10 percent collect somewhat less and the other two groups a little more.

You get the picture: modern capitalism is an unequal society, and the rich-get-richer dynamic strongly suggest that it will get more so. But there is one more loose end to tie up, already hinted at, and it has to do with the advent of very high wage incomes. First, here are some facts about the composition of top incomes. About 60 percent of the income of the top 1 percent in the United States today is labor income. Only when you get to the top tenth of 1 percent does income from capital start to predominate. The income of the top hundredth of 1 percent is 70 percent from capital. The story for France is not very different, though the proportion of labor income is a bit higher at every level. Evidently there are some very high wage incomes, as if you didn’t know.

This is a fairly recent development. In the 1960s, the top 1 percent of wage earners collected a little more than 5 percent of all wage incomes. This fraction has risen pretty steadily until nowadays, when the top 1 percent of wage earners receive 10–12 percent of all wages. This time the story is rather different in France. There the share of total wages going to the top percentile was steady at 6 percent until very recently, when it climbed to 7 percent. The recent surge of extreme inequality at the top of the wage distribution may be primarily an American development. Piketty, who with Emmanuel Saez has made a careful study of high-income tax returns in the United States, attributes this to the rise of what he calls “supermanagers.” The very highest income class consists to a substantial extent of top executives of large corporations, with very rich compensation packages. (A disproportionate number of these, but by no means all of them, come from the financial services industry.) With or without stock options, these large pay packages get converted to wealth and future income from wealth. But the fact remains that much of the increased income (and wealth) inequality in the United States is driven by the rise of these supermanagers.

and Deirdre McCloskey (p critical): https://ejpe.org/journal/article/view/170
nice discussion of empirical economics, economic history, market failures and statism, etc., with several bon mots

Piketty’s great splash will undoubtedly bring many young economically interested scholars to devote their lives to the study of the past. That is good, because economic history is one of the few scientifically quantitative branches of economics. In economic history, as in experimental economics and a few other fields, the economists confront the evidence (as they do not for example in most macroeconomics or industrial organization or international trade theory nowadays).


Piketty gives a fine example of how to do it. He does not get entangled as so many economists do in the sole empirical tool they are taught, namely, regression analysis on someone else’s “data” (one of the problems is the word data, meaning “things given”: scientists should deal in capta, “things seized”). Therefore he does not commit one of the two sins of modern economics, the use of meaningless “tests” of statistical significance (he occasionally refers to “statistically insignificant” relations between, say, tax rates and growth rates, but I am hoping he does not suppose that a large coefficient is “insignificant” because R. A. Fisher in 1925 said it was). Piketty constructs or uses statistics of aggregate capital and of inequality and then plots them out for inspection, which is what physicists, for example, also do in dealing with their experiments and observations. Nor does he commit the other sin, which is to waste scientific time on existence theorems. Physicists, again, don’t. If we economists are going to persist in physics envy let us at least learn what physicists actually do. Piketty stays close to the facts, and does not, for example, wander into the pointless worlds of non-cooperative game theory, long demolished by experimental economics. He also does not have recourse to non-computable general equilibrium, which never was of use for quantitative economic science, being a branch of philosophy, and a futile one at that. On both points, bravissimo.


Since those founding geniuses of classical economics, a market-tested betterment (a locution to be preferred to “capitalism”, with its erroneous implication that capital accumulation, not innovation, is what made us better off) has enormously enriched large parts of a humanity now seven times larger in population than in 1800, and bids fair in the next fifty years or so to enrich everyone on the planet. [Not SSA or MENA...]


Then economists, many on the left but some on the right, in quick succession from 1880 to the present—at the same time that market-tested betterment was driving real wages up and up and up—commenced worrying about, to name a few of the pessimisms concerning “capitalism” they discerned: greed, alienation, racial impurity, workers’ lack of bargaining strength, workers’ bad taste in consumption, immigration of lesser breeds, monopoly, unemployment, business cycles, increasing returns, externalities, under-consumption, monopolistic competition, separation of ownership from control, lack of planning, post-War stagnation, investment spillovers, unbalanced growth, dual labor markets, capital insufficiency (William Easterly calls it “capital fundamentalism”), peasant irrationality, capital-market imperfections, public … [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus


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=




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/




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.

The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

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.

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.

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]
econotariat  pseudoE  broad-econ  economics  econometrics  growth-econ  education  human-capital  labor  correlation  null-result  world  developing-world  commentary  spearhead  garett-jones  twitter  social  pic  discussion  econ-metrics  rindermann-thompson  causation  endo-exo  biodet  data  chart  knowledge  article  wealth-of-nations  latin-america  study  path-dependence  divergence  🎩  curvature  microfoundations  multi  convexity-curvature  nonlinearity  hanushek  volo-avolo  endogenous-exogenous  backup  pdf  people  policy  monetary-fiscal  wonkish  cracker-econ  news  org:mag  local-global  higher-ed  impetus  signaling  rhetoric  contrarianism  domestication  propaganda  ratty  hanson  books  review  recommendations  distribution  externalities  cost-benefit  summary  natural-experiment  critique  rent-seeking  mobility  supply-demand  intervention  shift  social-choice  government  incentives  interests  q-n-a  street-fighting  objektbuch  X-not-about-Y  marginal-rev  c:***  qra  info-econ  info-dynamics  org:econlib  yvain  ssc  politics  medicine  stories 
april 2017 by nhaliday
‘How dare you work on whites’: Professors under fire for research on white mortality - The Washington Post
the paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078

The Nobel laureate Angus Deaton discusses extreme poverty, opioid addiction, Trump voters, robots, and rent-seeking.

co-authored the "dead white people paper" w/ wife

point about expansion of education seems important


Diverging Life Expectancies and Voting Patterns in the 2016 US Presidential Election.: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28817322
Changes in county life expectancy from 1980 to 2014 were strongly negatively associated with Trump's vote share, with less support for Trump in counties experiencing greater survival gains. Counties in which life expectancy stagnated or declined saw a 10-percentage-point increase in the Republican vote share between 2008 and 2016.

DESPAIR AND DECADES-LONG DEINDUSTRIALIZATION: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/despair-and-decades-long-deindustrialization/

WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/weve-been-here-before/
A concept that seems to me to be missing from the Ruhm vs. Case/Deaton debate on “deaths of despair” is that of social crisis.

This seems to me to be the case for American Indians, who began experiencing what looks like a similar social crisis to non-college educated whites about a decade beforehand: rapidly escalating rates of suicide, drug overdoses, exit from the workforce, and even alcohol-related deaths (which were already very high for American Indians well before 2000, of course):


The common thread here would seem to be replacement of workforce participation with transfer payments, particularly cash transfers (since, my own reservations about Medicaid aside, increases in in-kind payments and SNAP since the 80s haven’t seemed to exert the same disruptive effect.) As I’ve said before, it seems very likely to me that technology will push an ever larger segment of society out of the economy, sooner or later, but how to prevent this from tearing apart our social fabric I don’t know.

Once It Was Overdue Books. Now Librarians Fight Overdoses.: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/nyregion/librarians-opioid-heroin-overdoses.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The End of the Past | Notes On Liberty
The phenomenon coined by Fernand Braudel, the “Betrayal of the Bourgeois,” was particularly powerful in ancient Rome. Great merchants flourished, but “in order to be truly valued, they eventually had to become rentiers, as Cicero affirmed without hesitation: ‘Nay, it even seems to deserve the highest respect, if those who are engaged in it [trade], satiated, or rather , I should say, satisfied with the fortunes they have made, make their way from port to a country estate, as they have often made it from the sea into port. But of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more delightful, none more becoming to a freeman’” (Schiavone, 2000, 103).

Such a cultural argument fits perfectly with Deirdre McCloskey’s claim in her recent trilogy that it was the adoption of bourgeois cultural norms and specifically bourgeois rhetoric that distinguished and caused the rise of north-western Europe after 1650 (here, here, and here).

Could Rome Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: https://medium.com/@MarkKoyama/could-rome-have-had-an-industrial-revolution-4126717370a2
This question is prompted by Kingdom of the Wicked, a new book by Helen Dale. Dale forces us to consider Jesus as a religious extremist in a Roman world not unlike our own. The novel throws new light on our own attitudes to terrorism, globalization, torture, and the clash of cultures. It is highly recommended.
Indirectly, however, Dale also addresses the possibility of sustained economic growth in the ancient world. The novel is set in a 1st century Roman empire during the governorship of Pontus Pilate and the reign of Tiberius. But in this alternative history, the Mediterranean world has experienced a series of technical innovations following the survival of Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse, which have led to rapid economic growth. As Dale explains in the book’s excellent afterword (published separately here), if Rome had experienced an industrial revolution, it would likely have differed from the actual one; and she briefly plots a path to Roman industrialization. All of this is highly stimulating and has prompted me to speculate further about whether Rome could have experienced modern economic growth and if Dale’s proposed path towards a Roman Industrial Revolution is plausible.


This assessment is bold but consistent with the recent findings of archaeologists who continue to uncover evidence of dense trading networks and widespread ownership of industrially produced consumption goods across the empire.


From this wealth of evidence, we know that the classical world experienced what Jack Goldstone has called a “growth efflorescence”.
But at even the Roman empire at its peak in the reign of Marcus Aurelius does not appear to have been on the verge of modern economic growth. Rome lacked some of the crucial characteristics of Britain on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. There was no culture of invention and discovery, no large population of skilled tinkerers or machine builders, and no evidence of labor scarcity that might have driven the invention of labor-saving inventions.

Could the Ancients Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: http://adlows.com/2017/11/12/ancient-industrial-revolution/
I would suggest that what specifically was missing in the case of Rome was a ratchet. By that, I mean some way to lock in the gains of new inventions. Where both the Dutch and British had many social and commercial mechanisms to spread knowledge of new innovations, Roman technology stayed in use only so long as the state continued to fund it. There was no widely-diffused base of knowledge that was constantly passed on and modified, resilient enough to survive political upheavals.

To put this in perspective, consider how stunningly little of Rome’s engineering knowledge endured the collapse of the empire. Imperial authorities erected aqueducts and amphitheaters, and laced the land with a complex network of roads and bridges. Yet none of these feats of engineering ratcheted; all such knowledge was lost with the fall of Rome.


So for all the astonishing engineering feats of the Romans, they were unlikely to incubate an industrial revolution. Is there anyone in antiquity who could have? Perhaps: those notoriously metaphysical Greeks.
econotariat  history  economics  growth-econ  iron-age  mediterranean  europe  early-modern  comparison  the-classics  innovation  roots  capitalism  the-great-west-whale  industrial-revolution  coordination  counterfactual  culture  society  values  divergence  broad-econ  revolution  rent-seeking  social-norms  🎩  gibbon  chart  leviathan  cultural-dynamics  zeitgeist  wealth-of-nations  great-powers  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  modernity  political-econ  microfoundations  technology  cjones-like  reason  multi  fiction  scifi-fantasy  gedanken  org:med  britain  gallic  labor  supply-demand  incentives  trade  status  law  property-rights  institutions  markets  conquest-empire  inequality  egalitarianism-hierarchy  knowledge  volo-avolo  decentralized  military  war  darwinian  competition  speculation  science  the-trenches  pseudoE  hari-seldon  cycles  whiggish-hegelian  flux-stasis  malthus  gnosis-logos  eden-heaven 
april 2017 by nhaliday
Social Capital, Extractive Institutions, and Redistributive Institutions by Ryan H Murphy :: SSRN
This paper disaggregates EFW into four measures, two pertaining to freedom from extractive institutions, and two pertaining to freedom from redistributive institutions. The motivation is that social capital may enhance components of economic freedom by reducing extractive institutions, while also inhibiting other components of economic freedom by increasing the willingness to use the state to redistribute income. Analysis of data from the World Values Survey do not appear to support the hypothesis.
study  economics  civil-liberty  government  policy  roots  trust  putnam-like  efficiency  civic  null-result  rent-seeking  redistribution  cohesion  social-capital  political-econ  madisonian  wealth-of-nations  microfoundations 
march 2017 by nhaliday
“Neoliberalism” and “The Cathedral” are the Same Damn Thing – spottedtoad
or.... maybe capital in the short run likes anarcho tyranny, big sclerotic capturable states, dumb pliant consumers, etc

The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter XI, Part III

Adam Smith on why Capital ought to be scrupulously distrusted in politics:
The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

Roundworm Eyed Doll: Neoliberalism, Social Justice and Barbie's New Hair: http://roreiy.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-response-to-southwood-thesis.html

Corporate Leaders: Progressive Activists, Not Conservative Villains: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445705/corporate-leaders-progressive-activists
The Market for Virtue: Why Companies like Qantas are Campaigning for Marriage Equality: http://quillette.com/2017/08/29/market-virtue-companies-like-qantas-campaigning-marriage-equality/
But companies aren’t being altruistic when they back causes like marriage equality. Research shows that executives pursue ethical behaviour because they think there is a business case for it. This is called the “market for virtue”, in which businesses aim to improve their public image or ward off regulation in exchange for ethical behaviour.

But there is little evidence that social responsibility initiatives necessarily result in positive outcomes for businesses. In fact, it may result in worse outcomes for society as a whole, as businesses put their resources behind causes that are already popular and ignore pressing issues such as inequality and stagnating wage growth.

its hard to disentangle the extent to which these things are done because they make them money
or because these values have become universal in the managerial caste from which they draw their leadership/upper echelon employees
Here is the essential difference in the models left and right must employ to publish: The left gets sponsors, we get scraps.

The Rise of Woke Capital: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/opinion/corporate-america-activism.html
There's a simple reason companies are becoming more publicly left-wing on social issues: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-companies-ditching-nra-delta-selling-guns-2018-2
The main reason that companies have been increasingly willing to take one side of hot-button social issues (the left-leaning side) is that's increasingly a good strategy to please customers and employees.

Partly this is because certain policy issues have disproportionately left-leaning polling. Gay rights are popular. Most of the gun regulations on offer in the current debate poll well, too.

But it's also because socially liberal segments of the public punch above their weight as potential customers (and, in some cases, as potential employees) for these companies.
ratty  unaffiliated  rhetoric  nl-and-so-can-you  managerial-state  westminster  culture-war  politics  capitalism  capital  current-events  nationalism-globalism  roots  madisonian  chart  identity-politics  idk  migration  multi  twitter  social  discussion  gnon  right-wing  speculation  incentives  anarcho-tyranny  corruption  crooked  hmm  google  drama  gender-diff  business  diversity  corporation  class-warfare  land  quotes  big-peeps  old-anglo  economics  political-econ  rent-seeking  markets  self-interest  cooperate-defect  institutions  law  regulation  competition  vampire-squid  elite  class  interests  lol  left-wing  wonkish  albion  clown-world  the-watchers  noblesse-oblige  news  org:mag  coalitions  barons  morality  leadership  ideology  trends  justice  stylized-facts  info-dynamics  commentary  🐸  management  media  internet  counter-revolution  mena4  propaganda  org:popup  impetus  polarization  org:rec  douthatish  compensation  demographics  org:biz  org:lite  civic  meaningness  cost-benefit  altruism  supply-demand  tradition 
march 2017 by nhaliday
The Trump White House is already cooking the books - The Washington Post
As the Wall Street Journal first reported (and as I’ve independently confirmed through my own sources), the Trump transition team instead ordered CEA staffers to predict sustained economic growth of 3 to 3.5 percent. The staffers were then directed to backfill all the other numbers in their models to produce these growth rates.


Donald Trump is rekindling one of his favorite conspiracy theories: Vaccine safety: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/10/donald-trump-is-rekindling-one-of-his-favorite-conspiracy-theories-vaccine-safety/
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february 2017 by nhaliday
They All Did – spottedtoad
The worsening prospects for low-education American workers over the last 40 years is a hard problem because it is overdetermined. Almost every plausible candidate for a cause of this deterioration has its partisans, and all of them have believable evidence at hand. Immigration, deunionization, “bad trade deals,” automation, low-inflation monetary policy, slowed GDP growth, worsened human capital, regulatory overreach, mass incarceration, cultural changes that make working less attractive, fragmented families, welfare state programs and technology that make not-working tolerable if not enjoyable, government programs and philanthropy dedicated to “fighting” various social ills that instead create vested interests in perpetuating those problems while disrupting civil society that can actually ameliorate them, reduced social trust, cultural fragmentation and diminished sense of national identity, unhealthy lifestyles, an education and credential-based economy that necessarily excludes a huge fraction of the society, a ruling class that despises half the country…

No one wants the real cause to be: all the above.
ratty  unaffiliated  trends  labor  automation  trade  migration  winner-take-all  stagnation  nl-and-so-can-you  rent-seeking  roots  economics  wonkish  capital  managerial-state  putnam-like  malaise  sociology  current-events  postmortem  nationalism-globalism  elite  social-capital  civic  madisonian  chart  coming-apart  noblesse-oblige  vampire-squid  dignity  nihil  welfare-state  zeitgeist  rot  the-bones  class-warfare  microfoundations  counter-revolution  nascent-state  summary  big-picture  🎩 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review: How Asia Works by Joe Studwell | Don't Worry About the Vase
1. Thou shalt enact real land reform.
2. Thou shalt protect infant industries and enforce upon them export discipline.
3. Thou shalt repress and direct thine financial system.

export discipline = see what price foreigners will buy product for

Garett Jones agrees: https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/902579701968928771
Park Chung Hee's brutal combination in SK of hardening the budget constraint while dangling incentives in front of top exporters was key IMO
By dangling the incentives before *exporters*, Park gave them an incentive to please customers who couldn't be bribed or shamed into buying.
and keeping the militant unions in check :-)
ratty  unaffiliated  books  summary  review  critique  history  economics  policy  world  developing-world  asia  government  stylized-facts  growth-econ  japan  korea  china  sinosphere  property-rights  labor  agriculture  rent-seeking  class  communism  checklists  political-econ  broad-econ  gray-econ  finance  org:davos  capitalism  trade  nationalism-globalism  🎩  markets  paying-rent  supply-demand  great-powers  multi  twitter  social  commentary  econotariat  garett-jones  pseudoE  wealth-of-nations 
february 2017 by nhaliday
List of games in game theory - Wikipedia
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
Considerations On Cost Disease | Slate Star Codex
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february 2017 by nhaliday
What Steve Bannon Wants You to Read - POLITICO Magazine
Atlantic article writes about @BronzeAgePerv and quotes Land and @kantbot2000 lol

‘I’m fascinated by Mussolini’: https://usa.spectator.co.uk/2018/03/im-fascinated-by-mussolini-steve-bannon-on-fascism-populism-and-everything-in-between/
‘The bigger threat we have got than socialism is state-controlled capitalism, which is where we’re headed, where we have big government and a handful of big companies. That’s what you’re seeing in technology right now with these massive companies. It’s the biggest danger we have.

‘Listen, I think our problem is [not just] the cultural Marxist left, but state capitalism on finance. That’s what we’re fighting right now.

They absolutely control our borders. They debase your currency, they debase your citizenship, and they take your personhood digitally.

‘This is the new serfdom. We’re just a collection of serfs — serfs living at a higher standard of living, but vis-à-vis what the total economic pie is, you’re still a serf, and that’s exactly where the modern state wants to keep you.’

Bannon is adamant that populism and fascism ‘are not even related’. ‘That’s just a smear. Look at the Gracchi brothers in Rome, Tiberius and Gaius, the greatest populists we ever had. They were not fascists. People are naturally not fascist. Come on, dude, you’ve got to know your Roman history? The brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus … they’re not fascists, they’re populists.’

That’s quite a highbrow allusion, I say: isn’t citing Roman history way above every-one’s heads? ‘Why? No, you see here’s the problem. You want to talk down. This is what’s happening to us. I want to raise the bar and get back to classical allusions because I come from a blue-collar family that reads Plutarch.’

He goes on: ‘Lincoln had the King James Bible, Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans and the plays of Shakespeare, that’s all he had, that’s what he read non-stop. He didn’t go to 20 years of school, he didn’t have a PhD in English. In the height of our civilisation, in England and other places, working men had reading associations. Churchill could make classical allusions and the Labour vote knew exactly what he was talking about. We’re not going to dumb it down, OK? I’m not going to let you dumb it down.’
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Federal University | West Hunter
If, as a pilot program, an example, the government set up a new university, mindlessly copying a decent state school from that golden era, like Berkeley or Wisconsin (or maybe from a bit earlier, since we probably want to avoid riots too), I doubt if it would cost a lot more. All those extra administrative personnel? Just don’t hire them. We could manage this by making the project top secret (actually, special access) – that lets you violate a lot of the useless bureaucratic rules, rather like being Uber.

Some things might cost more. If you want a medical school, you have to pay the professors competitive salaries (and MDs make much more than they did back in those days). But then, we could used taped lectures, online courses, etc.

It probably wouldn’t work for long, since politicians would be irresistibly temped to add on useless crap, like preferential admission for Skoptys, or whatever they’re called nowadays.

“Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year. Over the same period, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained fairly constant, at approximately fifteen or sixteen students per instructor. One thing that has changed, dramatically, is the administrator-per-student ratio. In 1975, colleges employed one administrator for every eighty-four students and one professional staffer—admissions officers, information technology specialists, and the like—for every fifty students. By 2005, the administrator-to-student ratio had dropped to one administrator for every sixty-eight students while the ratio of professional staffers had dropped to one for every twenty-one students. “

Higher Education In Mass. Enters Full Predatory Mode: http://news.wgbh.org/2016/12/08/local-news/higher-education-mass-enters-full-predatory-mode
academic administrators

I would put the kind of knowledge that you acquire in college into four categories. Obviously majors differ in their mix of these four humours. I’m thinking of economic/GDP/health type impacts.

Things that don’t matter. Like neutral genetic variation.
Things that make you better at doing something useful. Ideally, significantly better – at least better at the task than if you’d just spend an hour or two reading the manual.

Things that make you better at inventing techniques in category 2. What Edison, George Green, or Ramanujan learned in college. Overlaps with #2.

Things that ain’t so. Falsehoods. Ones with practical implications. There are obviously some majors that mostly inculcate falsehoods.

Now some of these can be used for signalling, but the content of education matters (in the broad sense – college but also reading Popular Mechanics). If it didn’t we’d all be living in caves and licking mammoth fat off our fingers.

It can also simply be ignored: lots of Silicon Valley companies give pretty explicit IQ tests without ever bothering to get them approved.

I used to think this, but now I wonder if the degree is used more as a signal of willingness to put up with institutional BS rather than IQ.
Yeah, Griggs is terrible, ham-fisted law, shd be overturned. But overrated as a cause of the edu bubble

- thinks its mostly subsidies not ban on IQ testing
- still getting good tests for cognitive ability plus non-cognitive habits, then moving to new equilibrium should be enough right?

Modern Universities Are An Exercise in Insanity: http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2018/01/modern-universities-are-exercise-in.html

My alma mater was Brigham Young University-Hawaii. If you are a member of the LDS church attending the school, then in 2017 your tuition was $3,000 a semester. If you are not a member, it was $5,000 for one semester. The school has a special program where you can graduate in three years by taking three semesters each year, and that costs $8,000 and $16,000 a year for LDS and non-member students respectively.


The average tenure track professor makes $40 an hour. If you were to employ her as a private tutor at the cost of $60 an hour, and had four hours with her a week, and did that for 14 weeks (that's the length of an average college course folks) that is about $3,400.

Were you to employ three such professor-tutors, that would be about $10,200, or a bit over $20,000 a year. In four years you would have racked up $80,000 in costs. But this is still $30,000 less than the total for the 'cost conscious' universities. It is a quarter of what you would pay for Trinity.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Elite Collusion or Competition? - Peter Turchin
more comments https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/04/13/anonimo/#comment-42887
interesting discussion of gilens-page: https://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/how-inequality-corrodes-cooperation-new-experimental-evidence/
This is not accurate. It is true Gilens shows that when the policy preferences of the rich diverge from the rest, the rich do get their way. But as I tried to point out on Twitter, most of the divergence is in matters unrelated to economic or redistributive policies. In fact, the policy preferences of the rich are positively correlated with the policy preferences of the middle and the poor on economics, taxes, and social welfare. The divergence is substantially driven (in Gilens’s analysis) by gun control and environment (see Table 5.5). The rich are more ‘progressive’ on those things.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
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