nhaliday + corporation   58

Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/05/ft-podcasts-on-us-china-competition-and.html

A new recommended career path for effective altruists: China specialist: https://80000hours.org/articles/china-careers/
Our rough guess is that it would be useful for there to be at least ten people in the community with good knowledge in this area within the next few years.

By “good knowledge” we mean they’ve spent at least 3 years studying these topics and/or living in China.

We chose ten because that would be enough for several people to cover each of the major areas listed (e.g. 4 within AI, 2 within biorisk, 2 within foreign relations, 1 in another area).

AI Policy and Governance Internship: https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ai-policy-governance-internship/

Deciphering China’s AI Dream
The context, components, capabilities, and consequences of
China’s strategy to lead the world in AI

Europe’s AI delusion: https://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-europes-ai-delusion/
Brussels is failing to grasp threats and opportunities of artificial intelligence.

When the computer program AlphaGo beat the Chinese professional Go player Ke Jie in a three-part match, it didn’t take long for Beijing to realize the implications.

If algorithms can already surpass the abilities of a master Go player, it can’t be long before they will be similarly supreme in the activity to which the classic board game has always been compared: war.

As I’ve written before, the great conflict of our time is about who can control the next wave of technological development: the widespread application of artificial intelligence in the economic and military spheres.


If China’s ambitions sound plausible, that’s because the country’s achievements in deep learning are so impressive already. After Microsoft announced that its speech recognition software surpassed human-level language recognition in October 2016, Andrew Ng, then head of research at Baidu, tweeted: “We had surpassed human-level Chinese recognition in 2015; happy to see Microsoft also get there for English less than a year later.”


One obvious advantage China enjoys is access to almost unlimited pools of data. The machine-learning technologies boosting the current wave of AI expansion are as good as the amount of data they can use. That could be the number of people driving cars, photos labeled on the internet or voice samples for translation apps. With 700 or 800 million Chinese internet users and fewer data protection rules, China is as rich in data as the Gulf States are in oil.

How can Europe and the United States compete? They will have to be commensurately better in developing algorithms and computer power. Sadly, Europe is falling behind in these areas as well.


Chinese commentators have embraced the idea of a coming singularity: the moment when AI surpasses human ability. At that point a number of interesting things happen. First, future AI development will be conducted by AI itself, creating exponential feedback loops. Second, humans will become useless for waging war. At that point, the human mind will be unable to keep pace with robotized warfare. With advanced image recognition, data analytics, prediction systems, military brain science and unmanned systems, devastating wars might be waged and won in a matter of minutes.


The argument in the new strategy is fully defensive. It first considers how AI raises new threats and then goes on to discuss the opportunities. The EU and Chinese strategies follow opposite logics. Already on its second page, the text frets about the legal and ethical problems raised by AI and discusses the “legitimate concerns” the technology generates.

The EU’s strategy is organized around three concerns: the need to boost Europe’s AI capacity, ethical issues and social challenges. Unfortunately, even the first dimension quickly turns out to be about “European values” and the need to place “the human” at the center of AI — forgetting that the first word in AI is not “human” but “artificial.”

US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

US military: "But... maybe just a computer vision app."

US AI researchers: "NO."

AI-risk was a mistake.
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february 2018 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
GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1%, uneven benefits for the middle class, report says - The Washington Post
Trump tweets: For his voters.
Tax plan: Something else entirely.
This is appallingly stupid if accurate


Treasury Removes Paper at Odds With Mnuchin’s Take on Corporate-Tax Cut’s Winners: https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-removes-paper-at-odds-with-mnuchins-take-on-corporate-tax-cuts-winners-1506638463

Tax changes for graduate students under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: https://bcide.gitlab.io/post/gop-tax-plan/
H.R.1 – 155th Congress (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) 1 proposes changes to the US Tax Code that threatens to destroy the finances of STEM graduate students nationwide. The offending provision, 1204(a)(3), strikes section 117(d) 2 of the US Tax Code. This means that under the proposal, tuition waivers are considered taxable income.

For graduate students, this means an increase of thousands of dollars in owed federal taxes. Below I show a calculation for my own situation. The short of it is this: My federal taxes increase from ~7.5% of my income to ~31%. I will owe about $6300 more in federal taxes under this legislation. Like many other STEM students, my choices would be limited to taking on significant debt or quitting my program entirely.

The Republican War on College: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/republican-college/546308/

Trump's plan to tax colleges will harm higher education — but it's still a good idea: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-taxing-colleges-is-a-good-idea-2017-11
- James Miller

The Republican Tax Plan Is a Disaster for Families With Children: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-a-disaster-for-families-with-children/
- Kevin Drum

The gains from cutting corporate tax rates: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/11/corporate-taxes-2.html
I’ve been reading in this area on and off since the 1980s, and I really don’t think these are phony results.

Entrepreneurship and State Taxation: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2018003pap.pdf
We find that new firm employment is negatively—and disproportionately—affected by corporate tax rates. We find little evidence of an effect of personal and sales taxes on entrepreneurial outcomes.

nobody in the comments section seems to have even considered the comparison with universities

The GOP Tax Bills Are Infrastructure Bills Too. Here’s Why.: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-republican-tax-bills-impact-infrastructure.html
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Is the economy illegible? | askblog
In the model of the economy as a GDP factory, the most fundamental equation is the production function, Y = f(K,L).

This says that total output (Y) is determined by the total amount of capital (K) and the total amount of labor (L).

Let me stipulate that the economy is legible to the extent that this model can be applied usefully to explain economic developments. I want to point out that the economy, while never as legible as economists might have thought, is rapidly becoming less legible.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
加雷特•琼斯 on Twitter: "The hottest take would be Krehbiel's Legislative Organization angle: Five members are more than enough if they're on the same subcommittee. https://t.co/kebW0la9bF"

As if more than five members of Congress could understand this.

Don't know! I know that we're all supposed to endorse open government, but that presumption should be interrogated.

Bring Back the Smoke-Filled Rooms: http://web.archive.org/web/20150503211359/http://cookpolitical.com/story/8407

Lowi's End of Liberalism & McCubbins/Schwartz 🔥 Alarms haunt CBO oversight:
Members won't get expertise: Delegation is the only option.

Lowi: https://medium.com/amor-mundi/ted-lowi-in-memoriam-of-his-work-bc88822b3419
basically the managerial state

A second, and more dangerous form of bureaucracy, is “government by decree.” It is a government that sees the law as a hindrance, an obstacle to be overcome in the bureaucratic effort to govern the people directly. Decrees are anonymous. They give the impression of constant action. It is government that eschews principles for the quick and personalized response to ever-changing circumstances. Arendt writes, “People ruled by decree never know what rules them because of the impossibility of understanding decrees in themselves and the carefully organized ignorance of specific circumstances and their practical significance in which all administrators keep their subjects.”

Reflecting Arendt, Lowi argues that liberalism has led in the United States to a government of “policy without law,” something like a government by decree. An essential part of this government by decree is the abandonment by the Congress of its governing responsibility, which it has increasingly delegated to the administrative state. The effort of liberal government, Lowi argues, is to “avoid enunciating a rule” and to replace clear rules and standards with “the principle of bargaining on each decision.” This is in fact Lowi’s overarching thesis: That liberalism replaces power with bargaining. “Liberal governments cannot plan. Planning requires the authoritative use of authority. Planning requires law, choice, priorities, moralities. Liberalism replaces planning with bargaining. Yet at bottom, power is unacceptable without planning.”

In the second edition of The End of Liberalism, Lowi added a subtitle, “The Second Republic of the United States.” The book tells a story of the transformation from the First to the Second Republic. In the First Republic, which goes from 1787 until about 1960, the states did most of the governing. The national government was both small and, more importantly, did very little governing. To the extent the federal government did govern, government was “Congress-centered.” The Congress was the main legislative arm of government. It was where the power of the Federal government was located.


The result of such a government by administration is what Lowi calls “socialism for the organized, capitalism for the unorganized.” It is a system that favors bigger and more organized businesses, unions, and interest groups. “It is biased not so much in favor of the rich as in favor of the established and the organized…. Above all it respects the established jurisdictions of government agencies and the established territories of private corporations and groups.” In short, the Second Republic offers a kind of politics that is “supportive of the clientele it seeks to deal with,” the organized interest groups that make claims upon it.

The Strength of a Weak State: The Rights Revolution and the Rise of Human Resources Management Divisions: http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/dobbin/files/1998_ajs_sutton.pdf

related: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:e295cdb33beb

'police patrol' vs. 'faire alarms': https://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/teaching/PLSC541_Fall08/mcubbins_schwartz_1984.pdf
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite
- Huntington, 2004


The views of the general public on issues of national identity differ significantly from those of many elites. The public, overall, is concerned with physical security but also with societal security, which involves the sustainability--within acceptable conditions for evolution--of existing patterns of language, culture, association, religion and national identity. For many elites, these concerns are secondary to participating in the global economy, supporting international trade and migration, strengthening international institutions, promoting American values abroad, and encouraging minority identities and cultures at home. The central distinction between the public and elites is not isolationism versus internationalism, but nationalism versus cosmopolitanism.


Estimated to number about 20 million in 2000, of whom 40 percent were American, this elite is expected to double in size by 2010. Comprising fewer than 4 percent of the American people, these transnationalists have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations. In the coming years, one corporation executive confidently predicted, "the only people who will care about national boundaries are politicians."


In August 1804, Walter Scott finished writing The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Therein, he
asked whether

"Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said:
'This is my own, my native Land?'
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned
As home his footsteps he hath turned, . . .
From wandering on a foreign strand?"

A contemporary answer to Scott's question is: Yes, the number of dead souls is small
but growing among America's business, professional, intellectual and academic elites.
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july 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
American Spring | Museum of the American Revolution
“The use of pseudonyms or pen names by contributors was not at all unusual in those days, but just why writers adopted them is an interesting question. There usually was little mystery — among the well informed, at least — as to the true identity of an author. Newspapers were leaky sieves of gossip and innuendo. Libel laws may have been of some concern, but prosecution was usually reserved for blatant assaults on individual character rather than advocacy of general political views. Such presumed anonymity tended, however, to allow authors to express views more pointed and accusations more personal than if they had signed their own names. Some authors no doubt also felt that such pseudonyms — particularly when they referenced noted Roman statesmen or were otherwise Latin flavored — added a mark of distinction and gravity to their words.

“Samuel Adams appears to have used at least twenty-five pseudonyms, including Candidus, Populus, and A Son of Liberty, and Alexander Hamilton (Publius, Americanus), Benjamin Franklin (Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders), Robert Livingston (Cato), and James Madison (Helvidius) all employed pen names. Another advantage, according to journalism historian Eric Burns, was that the more pseudonyms an author used, ‘the more likely it was that readers would think of him as several authors [and] his views, therefore, would seem to be held by many rather than simply one man with a prolific pen.’


Benjamin Franklin, An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz., The Court of the Press


Of the Checks proper to be established against the Abuse of Power in these Courts.

Hitherto there are none. But since so much has been written and published on the federal Constitution, and the necessity of checks in all other parts of good government has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also; but I have been at a loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty, of which they have been deprived by our laws, I mean the liberty of the cudgel. In the rude state of society prior to the existence of laws, if one man gave another ill language, the affronted person would return it by a box on the ear, and, if repeated, by a good drubbing; and this without offending against any law. But now the right of making such returns is denied, and they are punished as breaches of the peace; while the right of abusing seems to remain in full force, the laws made against it being rendered ineffectual by the liberty of the press.

My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigor; but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may in like manner way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing. Thus far goes my project as to private resentment and retribution. But if the public should ever happen to be affronted, as it ought to be, with the conduct of such writers, I would not advise proceeding immediately to these extremities; but that we should in moderation content ourselves with tarring and feathering, and tossing them in a blanket.

If, however, it should be thought that this proposal of mine may disturb the public peace, I would then humbly recommend to our legislators to take up the consideration of both liberties, that of the press, and that of the cudgel, and by an explicit law mark their extent and limits; and, at the same time that they secure the person of a citizen from assaults, they would likewise provide for the security of his reputation.

1/ Americans, especially journalists, don't really understand why the First Amendment exists or how it came to be.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology – Russ Roberts – Medium
lol: https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/879717516184080384
hmm: https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/891134709924868096
So any political regime premised on defending property rights is race-biased. If you want to call that racist, I think it's justified.

lmao wut


The Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Nominated for a National Book Award: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453408/nancy-macleans-democracy-chains-will-conspiracy-theory-win-national-book-award

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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
Kinship Systems, Cooperation and the Evolution of Culture
In the data, societies with loose ancestral kinship ties cooperate and trust broadly, which is apparently sustained through a belief in moralizing gods, universally applicable moral principles, feelings of guilt, and large-scale institutions. Societies with a historically tightly knit kinship structure, on the other hand, exhibit strong in-group favoritism: they cheat on and are distrusting of out-group members, but readily support in-group members in need. This cooperation scheme is enforced by moral values of in-group loyalty, conformity to tight social norms, emotions of shame, and strong local institutions.

Henrich, Joseph, The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution,
Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Princeton University Press, 2015.
—, W.E.I.R.D People: How Westerners became Individualistic, Self-Obsessed, Guilt-Ridden,
Analytic, Patient, Principled and Prosperous, Princeton University Press, n.d.
—, Jean Ensminger, Richard McElreath, Abigail Barr, Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Juan Camilo Cardenas, Michael Gurven, Edwins Gwako, Natalie Hen- rich et al., “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,” Science, 2010, 327 (5972), 1480–1484.


—, —, Will M. Gervais, Aiyana K. Willard, Rita A. McNamara, Edward Slingerland, and Joseph Henrich, “The Cultural Evolution of Prosocial Religions,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2016, 39, e1.


Purzycki, Benjamin Grant, Coren Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Rita Anne McNamara, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, and Joseph Henrich, “Moralistic Gods, Supernatural Punishment and the Expansion of Human Sociality,” Nature, 2016.

Table 1 summarizes
Figure 1 has map of kinship tightness
Figure 2 has cheating and in-group vs. out-group
Table 2 has regression
Figure 3 has univeralism and shame-guilt
Figure 4 has individualism-collectivism/conformity
Table 4 has radius of trust, Table 5 same for within-country variation (ethnic)
Tables 7 and 8 do universalism

Haidt moral foundations:
In line with the research hypothesis discussed in Section 3, the analysis employs two dependent variables, i.e., (i) the measure of in-group loyalty, and (ii) an index of the importance of communal values relative to the more universal (individualizing) ones. That is, the hypothesis is explicitly not about some societies being more or less moral than others, but merely about heterogeneity in the relative importance that people attach to structurally different types of values. To construct the index, I compute the first principal component of fairness / reciprocity, harm / care, in-group / loyalty, and respect /authority. The resulting score endogenously has the appealing property that – in line with the research hypothesis – it loads positively on the first two values and negatively on the latter two, with roughly equal weights, see Appendix F for details.²⁴I compute country-level scores by averaging responses by country of residence of respondents. Importantly, in Enke (2017) I document that – in a nationally representative sample of Americans – this same index of moral communalism is strongly correlated with individuals’ propensity to favor their local community over society as a whole in issues ranging from taxation and redistribution to donations and volunteering. Thus, there is evidence that the index of communal moral values captures economically meaningful behavioral heterogeneity.

The coevolution of kinship systems, cooperation, and culture: http://voxeu.org/article/kinship-cooperation-and-culture
- Benjamin Enke

pretty short

good linguistics reference cited in this paper:
On the biological and cultural evolution of shame: Using internet search tools to weight values in many cultures: https://arxiv.org/abs/1401.1100v2
Here we explore the relative importance between shame and guilt by using Google Translate [>_>...] to produce translation for the words "shame", "guilt", "pain", "embarrassment" and "fear" to the 64 languages covered. We also explore the meanings of these concepts among the Yanomami, a horticulturist hunter-gatherer tribe in the Orinoquia. Results show that societies previously described as “guilt societies” have more words for guilt than for shame, but *the large majority*, including the societies previously described as “shame societies”, *have more words for shame than for guilt*. Results are consistent with evolutionary models of shame which predict a wide scatter in the relative importance between guilt and shame, suggesting that cultural evolution of shame has continued the work of biological evolution, and that neither provides a strong adaptive advantage to either shame or guilt [? did they not just say that most languages favor shame?].


The roots of the word "shame" are thought to derive from an older word meaning "to cover". The emotion of shame has clear physiological consequences. Its facial and corporal expression is a human universal, as was recognized already by Darwin (5). Looking away, reddening of the face, sinking the head, obstructing direct view, hiding the face and downing the eyelids, are the unequivocal expressions signaling shame. Shame might be an emotion specific to humans, as no clear description of it is known for animals.
Classical Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, explicitly mention shame as a key element in building society.

Guilt is the emotion of being responsible for the commission of an offense, however, it seems to be distinct from shame. Guilt says “what I did was not good”, whereas shame says “I am no good"(2). For Benedict (1), shame is a violation of cultural or social values, while guilt feelings arise from violations of one's internal values.


Unobservable emotions such as guilt may be of value to the receiver but constitutes in economy “private information”. Thus, in economic and biological terms, adaptive pressures acting upon the evolution of shame differ from those acting on that of guilt.

Shame has evolutionary advantages to both individual and society, but the lack ofshame also has evolutionary advantages as it allows cheating and thus benefiting from public goods without paying the costs of its build up.


Dodds (7) coined the distinction between guilt and shame cultures and postulated that in Greek cultural history, shame as a social value was displaced, at least in part, by guilt in guiding moral behavior.
"[...]True guilt cultures rely on an internalized conviction of sin as the enforcer of good behavior, not, as shame cultures do, on external sanctions. Guilt cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of restoring the social order”.


For example, Wikipedia is less error prone than Encyclopedia Britannica (12, 17); and Google Translate is as accurate as more traditional methods (35).

Table 1, Figure 1


This regression is close to a proportional line of two words for shame for each word for guilt.


For example, in the case of Chinese, no overlap between the five concepts is reported using Google Translate in Figure 1. Yet, linguistic-conceptual studies of guilt and shame revealed an important overlap between several of these concepts in Chinese (29).


Our results using Google Translate show no overlap between Guilt and Shame in any of the languages studied.
[lol:] Examples of the context when they feel “kili” are: a tiger appears in the forest; you kill somebody from another community; your daughter is going to die; everybody looks at your underwear; you are caught stealing; you soil your pants while among others; a doctor gives you an injection; you hit your wife and others find out; you are unfaithful to your husband and others find out; you are going to be hit with a machete.


Linguistic families do not aggregate according to the relationship of the number of synonyms for shame and guilt (Figure 3).


The ratios are 0.89 and 2.5 respectively, meaning a historical transition from guilt-culture in Latin to shame-culture in Italian, suggesting a historical development that is inverse to that suggested byDodds for ancient to classical Greek. [I hope their Latin corpus doesn't include stuff from Catholics...]

Joe Henrich presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-unD4ZzWB4

relevant video:
Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJlN9jdQFSc

this says Dems more guilt-driven but Peter Frost says opposite here (and matches my perception of the contemporary breakdown both including minorities and focusing only on whites): https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9b75881f6861

this is an amazing paper:
The Origins of WEIRD Psychology: https://psyarxiv.com/d6qhu/
Recent research not only confirms the existence of substantial psychological variation around the globe but also highlights the peculiarity of populations that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD). We propose that much of this variation arose as people psychologically adapted to differing kin-based institutions—the set of social norms governing descent, marriage, residence and related domains. We further propose that part of the variation in these institutions arose historically from the Catholic Church’s marriage and family policies, which contributed to the dissolution of Europe’s traditional kin-based institutions, leading eventually to the predominance of nuclear families and impersonal institutions. By combining data on 20 psychological outcomes with historical measures of both kinship and Church exposure, we find support for these ideas in a comprehensive array of analyses across countries, among European regions and between individuals with … [more]
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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
Living with Inequality - Reason.com
That's why I propose the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club. The tenth commandment—"You shall not covet"—is a foundation of social peace. The Nobel Laureate economist Vernon Smith noted the tenth commandment along with the eighth (you shall not steal) in his Nobel toast, saying that they "provide the property right foundations for markets, and warned that petty distributional jealousy must not be allowed to destroy" those foundations. If academics, pundits, and columnists would avowedly reject covetousness, would openly reject comparisons between the average (extremely fortunate) American and the average billionaire, would mock people who claimed that frugal billionaires are a systematic threat to modern life, then soon our time could be spent discussing policy issues that really matter.

Enlightenment -> social justice: https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/866448789825105920
US reconquista: https://twitter.com/AngloRemnant/status/865980569397731329
envy and psychology textbooks: https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/887115182257917952

various Twitter threads: https://twitter.com/search?q=GarettJones+inequality


Civilization means saying no to the poor: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/civilization-means-saying-no-to-the-poor/
Although I instinctively dislike him, I do agree with Professor Scott on one point: “exploitation” really is the essence of civilization, whether by exploitation one simply means authority as described by those insensible to its moral force or more simply the refusal of elites to divulge their resources to the poor.

In fact, no human creation of lasting worth could ever be made without a willingness to tell the poor to *** off. If we really listened to the demands of social justice, if we really let compassion be our guide, we could have no art, no music, no science, no religion, no philosophy, no architecture beyond the crudest shelters. The poor are before us, their need perpetually urgent. It is inexcusable for us ever to build a sculpture, a cathedral, a particle accelerator. And the poor, we have it on two good authorities (the other being common sense), will be with us always. What we give for their needs today will have disappeared tomorrow, and they will be hungry again. Imagine if some Savonarola had come to Florence a century or two earlier and convinced the Florentine elite to open their hearts and their wallets to the poor in preference for worldly vanities. All that wealth would have been squandered on the poor and would have disappeared without a trace. Instead, we got the Renaissance.

Reward the lawless; punish the law abiding. Complete inversion which will eventually drive us back to the 3rd world darkness whence we came.

This idea that a group is only honorable in virtue of their victimization is such a pernicious one.
for efficiency, just have "Victims of WASPs Day." A kind of All Victims' Day. Otherwise U.S. calendar will be nothing but days of grievance.
Bonald had a good bit on this (of course).
Steve King is supposedly stupid for claiming that Western Civilization is second to none. One might have supposed that Catholics would take some pride as Catholics in Western civilization, a thing that was in no small part our creation. Instead, the only history American Catholics are to remember is being poor and poorly regarded recent immigrants in America.

Don't even bother with the rat race if you value big family. I won the race, & would've been better off as a dentist in Peoria.
.. College prof in Athens, OH. Anesthesiologist in Knoxville. State govt bureaucrat in Helena.
.. This is the formula: Middle America + regulatory capture white-collar job. anyone attempting real work in 2017 america is a RETARD.
.. Also unclear is why anyone in the US would get married. knock your girl up and put that litter on Welfare.
You: keep 50% of your earnings after taxes. 25% is eaten by cost of living. save the last 25%, hope our bankrupt gov doesn't expropriate l8r
The main difference in this country between welfare and 7-figure income is the quality of your kitchen cabinets.

wtf: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm
$159,770 per year
$76.81 per hour

18% (Much faster than average)

Admission into dental school is highly competitive. Along with undergraduate performance, students are evaluated for their Dental Admissions Test (DAT) scores. Students have the opportunity to take this test before graduating college. After gaining admission into dental school, students can go on to complete four years of full-time study to earn the Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine. Students typically spend the first two years learning general and dental science in classroom and laboratory settings. They may take courses like oral anatomy, histology and pathology. In the final years, dental students participate in clinical practicums, gaining supervised, hands-on experience in dental clinics.

Career ideas for the minimally ambitious dissident who wants to coast, shitpost, & live well:
- econ phd -> business school prof
- dentistry
- 2 years of banking/consulting -> F500 corp dev or strategy
- gov't bureaucrat in a state capital
Bad career ideas, for contrast:
- law
- humanities prof
- IT
- anything 'creative'

[ed.: Personally, I'd also throw in 'actuary' (though keep in mind ~20% risk of automation).]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
How Samuel Huntington Predicted Our Political Moment - The American Interest
The views of the general public on issues of national identity differ significantly from those of many elites. The public, overall, is concerned with physical security but also with societal security, which involves the sustainability–within acceptable conditions for evolution–of existing patterns of language, culture, association, religion and national identity. For many elites, these concerns are secondary to participating in the global economy, supporting international trade and migration, strengthening international institutions, promoting American values abroad, and encouraging minority identities and cultures at home. The central distinction between the public and elites is not isolationism versus internationalism, but nationalism versus cosmopolitanism.

The book looks back to the Revolutionary War, the Jacksonian age, the Progressive era and the 1960s as moments of high creedal passions, and Huntington’s descriptions capture America today. In such moments, he writes, discontent is widespread, and authority and expertise are questioned; traditional values of liberty, individualism, equality and popular control of government dominate public debates; politics is characterized by high polarization and constant protest; hostility toward power, wealth and inequality grows intense; social movements focused on causes such as women’s rights and criminal justice flourish; and new forms of media emerge devoted to advocacy and adversarial journalism.

Huntington even predicts the timing of America’s next fight: “If the periodicity of the past prevails,” he writes, “a major sustained creedal passion period will occur in the second and third decades of the twenty-first century.”

We’re right on schedule.


Over the subsequent two decades, Huntington lost hope. In his final book, “Who Are We?,” which he emphasizes reflect his views not just as a scholar but also as a patriot, Huntington revises his definitions of America and Americans. Whereas once the creed was paramount, here it is merely a byproduct of the Anglo-Protestant culture — with its English language, Christian faith, work ethic and values of individualism and dissent — that he now says forms the true core of American identity.


The Huntington of 1981, apparently, was just wrong. When listing academics who had — inaccurately, he now insists — defined Americans by their political beliefs, Huntington quotes an unnamed scholar who once eloquently described Americans as inseparable from the self-evident truths of the Declaration. Unless you recognize the passage from “American Politics” or bother to check the endnotes, you have no idea he is quoting himself. It’s as close to a wink as you’ll find in Huntington’s angriest book.


Little wonder that, long before Trump cultivated the alt-right and Hillary Clinton denounced the “deplorables” in our midst, Huntington foresaw a backlash against multiculturalism from white Americans. “One very plausible reaction would be the emergence of exclusivist sociopolitical movements,” he writes, “composed largely but not only of white males, primarily working-class and middle-class, protesting and attempting to stop or reverse these changes and what they believe, accurately or not, to be the diminution of their social and economic status, their loss of jobs to immigrants and foreign countries, the perversion of their culture, the displacement of their language, and the erosion or even evaporation of the historical identity of their country. Such movements would be both racially and culturally inspired and could be anti-Hispanic, anti-black, and anti-immigration.” The more extreme elements in such movements, Huntington notes, fear “the replacement of the white culture that made America great by black or brown cultures that are . . . in their view, intellectually and morally inferior.”


This is a conflict he had long anticipated. In his 1996 book proclaiming a clash of civilizations, he writes that the West will continue its slow decline relative Asia and the Islamic world. While economic dynamism drives Asia’s rise, population growth in Muslim nations “provides recruits for fundamentalism, terrorism, insurgency, and migration.” Much as Trump mocks politicians who refuse to decry “radical Islamic terrorism,” Huntington criticizes American leaders such as Bill Clinton who argued that the West had no quarrel with Islam, only with violent extremists. “Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise,” he remarks.

Huntington’s clash has been caricatured as a single-minded call to arms against Muslims, and certainly the argument is neither so narrow nor so simple. He is probably more concerned with China and fears a “major war” if Washington challenges Beijing’s rise as Asia’s hegemon. Yet the threat Huntington sees from the Muslim world goes far beyond terrorism or religious extremism. He worries of a broader Islamic resurgence, with political Islam as only one part of “the much more extensive revival of Islamic ideas, practices, and rhetoric and the rededication to Islam by Muslim populations.” Huntington cites scholars warning of the spread of Islamic legal concepts in the West, decries the “inhospitable nature of Islamic culture” for democracy and suggests that Islam will prevail in the numbers game against Christianity. In the long run, “Mohammed wins out,” he states. “Christianity spreads primarily by conversion, Islam by conversion and reproduction.”

I am rereading Huntington. The only options he foresees are:
* cultural decay
* political breakup
* white re-assertion
* Christian revival
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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
O Canada! | West Hunter
Imagine a country with an average IQ of 100, some average amount of education (with some distribution), some average amount of capital per head (with some distribution of ownership of capital). Now add immigrants – 10% of the population – that are the same in every way. Same average IQ, same distribution of IQ, same average amount of capital and same distribution. They speak the same language. They have similar political traditions. In other words, it is as if the US had just peacefully annexed an imaginary country that’s a lot like Canada.

Would the original inhabitants gain economically from this merger? Strikes me that this could only happen from economies of scale – since nothing has changed other than a 10% increase in overall size. There might be some diseconomies of scale as well. I wouldn’t expect a big payoff. Except for Nawapa, of course.

Contrast this with a situation in which the extra 10% is fairly different – lower average IQ, much less education on average, don’t speak English. They don’t bring along a lot of capital. They have and bring along their native political traditions, like everyone, but theirs stink. I can easily see how those immigrants might have improved their economic lot but it’s kindof hard to see how bringing in people with low human capital benefits the original citizens more than bringing in people with considerably higher human capital. Yet it must, because adding more of the same clearly has a small effect, while adding in lower-skilled must have a big positive effect. Practically all the economists say so.

place of birth for the foreign-born population of the US, 2013:
all of Latin America, ~25 million China, ~2.5 million

Caplan’s full of shit. Prosperity through favelas? Hasn’t worked anywhere else.

The countries that look somewhat like our likely demographic destination ( considering recent trends) do worse economically than the United States, including the subgroups with high human capital. Brazil, say.

On the other hand, if you’re talking positional wealth, bringing in people with low human capital definitely works. Servants.

Sponsor An Immigrant Yourself: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/13/immigration-visas-economics-216968
No, really: A new kind of visa would let individual Americans—instead of corporations—reap the economic benefits of migration.

I’ve always wanted my own sla—immigrant.......
I feel like people are neglecting the fact that this was written by Eric Posner....
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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]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Why the West Got Rich, part 1/N: War - Jared Rubin's Website
of course I don't understand why some people want to focus on the Middle East with respect to the great divergence
"why not China (and East Asia in general)" was inspired by East Asia's rapid convergence in the 20th century
I don't understand why anyone thinks Middle East divergence is a big puzzle just bec Muslims were good at mediaeval math/science

Jared Rubin: Rulers, religion, and riches: Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not?
- Mark Koyama

Islam and Economic Performance: Historical and Contemporary Links: https://sites.duke.edu/timurkuran/files/2017/09/Islam-Economic-Performance-Kuran-JEL-in-press.pdf
- Timur Kuran

This essay critically evaluates the analytic literature concerned with causal connections between Islam and economic performance. It focuses on works since 1997, when this literature was last surveyed. Among the findings are the following: Ramadan fasting by pregnant women harms prenatal development; Islamic charities mainly benefit the middle class; Islam affects educational outcomes less through Islamic schooling than through structural factors that handicap learning as a whole; Islamic finance hardly affects Muslim financial behavior; and low generalized trust depresses Muslim trade. The last feature reflects the Muslim world’s delay in transitioning from personal to impersonal exchange. The delay resulted from the persistent simplicity of the private enterprises formed under Islamic law. Weak property rights reinforced the private sector’s stagnation by driving capital out of commerce and into rigid waqfs. Waqfs limited economic development through their inflexibility and democratization by restraining the development of civil society. Parts of the Muslim world conquered by Arab armies are especially undemocratic, which suggests that early Islamic institutions, including slave-based armies, were particularly critical to the persistence of authoritarian patterns of governance. States have contributed themselves to the persistence of authoritarianism by treating Islam as an instrument of governance. As the world started to industrialize, non-Muslim subjects of Muslim-governed states pulled ahead of their Muslim neighbors by exercising the choice of law they enjoyed under Islamic law in favor of a Western legal system.

Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not: http://theforum.erf.org.eg/2017/09/10/west-got-rich-middle-east-not-implications-twenty-first-century/
- There are two reasons to be more pessimistic than optimistic about the economic and political future of the Middle East.
- First, much of the economic opportunity offered by the one-time resource boom has been squandered.
- Second, as oil revenues dry up and rulers have less capacity to buy support via subsidies and graft, the odds of them leaning even more heavily on religious legitimacy are high.

The Long Divergence: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/the-long-divergence/
I just finished The Long Divergence, by Timur Kuran, which tries to explain the Middle East’s economic backwardness. It’s a path-dependence argument: mistakes were made, and one thing led to another.

His thesis is that particular features of local culture and Islamic law inhibited modernization. He argues that these factors inhibited the development of complex sub-state organizations, in particular the modern business corporation. He blames factors that tended to disperse wealth: the egalitarian Islamic inheritance system and polygyny. Today they wouldn’t matter to a corporation, but in the past they interfered with concentration of assets that would have been useful in establishing larger-scale concerns. He thinks that the Quranic ban on interest was mostly an irritant, routinely evaded, but it didn’t help.

He talks about the mysterious trend in which non-Muslim minorities became ever wealthier and more influential over the past couple of centuries, even though they were supposed to be second-class citizens. Trade was dominated by religious minorities (Greeks, Armenians, and sometimes Jews), as well as new sectors of the economy like insurance and finance. Also in new industries: “In major cities, water,gas, electricity, telephone, tram, and subway services were founded mostly through foreign capital, and the managerial staff was overwhelmingly non-Muslim.”
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april 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.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Managerial state - Wikipedia
Managerial state is a concept used in critiquing modern social democracy in Western countries. The term takes a pejorative context as a manifestation of Western decline. Theorists Samuel T. Francis and Paul Gottfried say this is an ongoing regime that remains in power, regardless of what political party holds a majority. Variations include therapeutic managerial state,[1] welfare-warfare state[2] or polite totalitarianism.[3]

Francis, following James Burnham, said that under this historical process, “law is replaced by administrative decree, federalism is replaced by executive autocracy, and a limited government replaced by an unlimited state.”[4] It acts in the name of abstract goals, such as equality or positive rights, and uses its claim of moral superiority, power of taxation and wealth redistribution to keep itself in power.

Samuel Francis argued that the problems of managerial state extend to issues of crime and justice. In 1992, he introduced the word “anarcho-tyranny” into the paleocon vocabulary.[10] He once defined it this way: “we refuse to control real criminals (that's the anarchy) so we control the innocent (that's the tyranny).”[11] Francis argued that this situation extends across the U.S. and Europe. While the government functions normally, violent crime remains a constant, creating a climate of fear (anarchy). He says that “laws that are supposed to protect ordinary citizens against ordinary criminals” routinely go unenforced, even though the state is “perfectly capable” of doing so. While this problem rages on, government elites concentrate their interests on law-abiding citizens. In fact, Middle America winds up on the receiving end of both anarchy and tyranny.[10]



James Burnham’s Managerial Elite: https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/02/james-burnhams-managerial-elite/

James Burnham and The Managerial Revolution / George Orwell: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/james_burnham/

Book Review: James Burnham’s Suicide Of The West: https://www.socialmatter.net/2016/12/19/book-review-suicide-west/

In 1964, a book was published which described the Puritan Hypothesis, the concept of No Enemies to the Left, the Left’s tactical use of the Overton Window, virtue signaling, out-group preference, the nature/nurture debate, the Corporate-Managerial character of liberalism, and the notion of conservatism as nothing but a pale shadow of liberalism. This book was James Burnham’s Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism.

It is one of the latter works of a man made famous by his hypothesis of a Managerial Revolution in the mid-20th century, where the old, bourgeois elites were being displaced by a class of high-verbal IQ specialists, where wealth as a source of status was being replaced with credentialism and political creedalism, and where the accumulation of wealth was becoming a product of political-corporate collaboration and rent-seeking, rather than innovation and production.


According to Burnham, liberalism is “a set of unexamined prejudices and conjoined sentiments[9],” which undergird a post-Christian society and which emerge from the high verbal IQ “opinion-makers” which he defines as, “teachers, publishers, writers, Jewish and Mainline clergy, some Catholic bishops, the Civil Service, and the leaders of the monied Foundations[10].” These sentiments and prejudices are largely unspoken and unacknowledged by the liberals which hold them, but form the foundation of their perception of the world and reality, from their idealistic doctrine of Man’s perfectibility to their moral preference for anyone who is not them.

What this means is that the liberal’s notions are not derived from principles but from instinctive, gut-level reactions to situations which are then rationalized post-facto into the categories of Peace, Justice, Freedom, and Liberty[11]. Trying to understand liberal thought by beginning with these principles is working backward, and theorists who attempt to do this create theories which lack in predictive accuracy; in short, it’s bad science. Predicting that the liberal will pursue egalitarianism flies in the face of the reality that liberals do not care about equality for outgroups like poor whites, divorced men, or Christians suffering religious persecution in Islamic countries. What most accurately predicts liberal behavior is the combination (or possibly merger) of the No Enemies to the Left doctrine and the moral asymmetry doctrine. In any conflict between the “less fortunate” and the “oppressor,” the liberal will either side with the “less fortunate” or explain away any atrocities too great to ignore by denying the moral agency of the group due to “oppression,[12]” always defined in accordance with No Enemies to the Left.


The source of this sentiment and prejudice according to Burnham is the replacement of Christianity in the West by a bastardized Calvinism incapable of dealing with the human problem of guilt and the psychological need for forgiveness. Christianity provides a solution to the problem of guilt in the person of Christ, who forgives sins through his death on the cross in a way that liberalism cannot[14].

Because forgiveness is not available in liberalism, the liberal elevates the problem of personal guilt to the level of the abstract and institution; the concept of the white race, in Burnham’s account, is a liberal invention in order to create a scapegoat for the personal guilt of the liberal. Likewise, the notion of institutional racism is the other fork of this same motion, to rid the liberal of his personal guilt for sin by placing sin at the level of abstraction and society. One function of this abstraction is that it provides an easy way for the liberal to absolve himself of sin by turning his guilty self-hatred against his neighbors and country. The liberal declares that he is not racist because everyone else is the real racist. DR3 was not a conservative invention but an expression from liberalism itself, which began as YouR3 and USAR3 then continued into Western CivR3. This is one of the reasons that, as Vox Day states, SJWs Always Project; the core of their belief system is the projection of their personal sinfulness onto others and onto abstract concepts.


Burnham gives one sliver of hope to a non-liberal future. First, he demonstrates that the various special-interest groups of “less fortunates” are not liberal in any real understanding of the word. These groups, of which he focuses on blacks, Jews, and Catholics, are fundamentally operating at the level of tribal self-interest, to the point of nearly being non-ideological. The “less fortunate” groups are riding liberalism’s moral asymmetry so long as that gravy train holds out and show no evidence of holding any real allegiance to its doctrines. Secondly, he argues that white labor is only superficially liberal and supports the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party only insofar as it provides tangible benefits in the form of higher pay and less hours[16]. Liberalism is a doctrine for the managerial class of the white majority which justifies their prejudices, so it should be no surprise that Burnham believes that blue-collar whites will slowly drift out of liberalism as it becomes increasingly hostile toward their interests.

Why the West Is Suicidal: https://home.isi.org/why-west-suicidal
How do you gauge the health of a civilization? There are geographic and demographic, strategic and economic, social and spiritual measures. By almost all of them, Western civilization appears to be in trouble. Fertility rates in the U.S. and Europe are below replacement levels. America is mired in the longest war in her history—having spent seventeen years in Afghanistan come December—with no glimmer of victory in sight. Indeed, for the West’s greatest military power, one war shades into another in the Middle East: Iraq, ISIS, Syria, Yemen, perhaps soon Iran, none ever quite won.

The West remains rich, but the Great Recession of a decade ago and the sluggish recovery that followed suggest that our prosperity is faltering. Workers and the middle classes fear losing their jobs to automation, immigration, and financial chicanery. The destruction of old party coalitions and the dethronement of liberal elites on both sides of the Atlantic by new congeries of nationalists, populists, and socialists are an index of economic as well as political dissatisfaction. Meanwhile pews continue to empty throughout what was once Christendom. The religious group growing most quickly in the U.S. and Europe are the churchless “nones.”


Burnham wrote in a spirit of hope, not despair: his book was intended as a warning against, and corrective to, the path of Western self-destruction. He was heard in time—or perhaps the West just received an unearned reprieve when Soviet Communism imploded at the end of the 1980s. Today, as a post–Cold War liberal world order underwritten by American power unravels, thoughts of suicide have returned. And like Burnham, another National Review mainstay, Jonah Goldberg, has written a book called Suicide of the West.

Goldberg’s Suicide is subtitled How the Rebirth of Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy. His book is, in some respects, the opposite of Burnham’s earlier Suicide, whose subtitle was An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism. Goldberg can fairly be called a liberal conservative, and his Suicide argues for the preservation of a civilizational patrimony inherited from the Enlightenment. This includes economic liberalism (in the “classical” sense); religious and political pluralism; and faith in democracy, properly understood. Burnham, by contrast, was… [more]
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march 2017 by nhaliday
The Common Law Corporation: The Power of the Trust in Anglo-American Business History
In a new article just published in the Columbia Law Review, I offer new answers by suggesting that if the corporate form mattered at all in Anglo-American legal history, it was not for the reasons we have long supposed. Based on a new examination of historical legal sources from the late Middle Ages to the middle of the twentieth century, I show that the basic powers of the corporate form were also available throughout most of modern history through an underappreciated but enormously important legal device known as the common law trust. The trust’s success at mimicking the corporate form meant that the corporate form was almost never the exclusive source of the legal features that have long been considered its key contribution to modern life.
study  summary  economics  industrial-org  coordination  institutions  history  law  business  anglo  usa  medieval  early-modern  mostly-modern  contracts  anglosphere  capitalism  cultural-dynamics  protocol  pre-ww2  corporation  axioms  organizing 
march 2017 by nhaliday
Social Epistasis Amplifies the Fitness Costs of Deleterious Mutations, Engendering Rapid Fitness Decline Among Modernized Populations | SpringerLink
- Michael A. Woodley

We argue that in social species, interorganismal gene-gene interactions, which in previous literatures have been termed social epistasis, allow genomes carrying deleterious mutations to reduce via group-level pleiotropy the fitness of others, including noncarriers. This fitness reduction occurs by way of degradation of group-level processes that optimize the reproductive ecology of a population for intergroup competition through, among other mechanisms, suppression of free-riding.


Fitness indicators theory (Houle 2000; Miller 2000) predicts that the behavioral and physiological condition of prospective partners strongly influences female mate choice in particular, as these constitute honest indicators of underlying genetic quality. Furthermore, as deleterious mutations are pleiotropic (i.e., they can influence the development of multiple traits simultaneously), they are a source of genetic correlation among diverse behavioral and physiological domains, yielding a latent general fitness factor( f ). This optimizes the efficiency of sexual selection, as selection for quality with respect to one domain will increase the probability of selection for quality “across the board” (Houle 2000; Miller 2000). If purifying selection is primarily cryptic—working by virtue of those lower in f simply being less successful in competition for mates and therefore producing fewer offspring relative to those higher in the factor—then considerably less reproductive failure is needed to solve the mutation load paradox (19% instead of 88% based on simulations in Leseque et al. 2012).


Theoretical work involving humans suggests a loss of intrinsic fitness of around 1% per generation in the populations of modernized countries (Lynch 2016; Muller 1950). Thus, these might yet be undergoing mutational meltdown, albeit very gradually (i.e., over the course of centuries)


An interesting observation is that the fitness of the populations of modernized nations does appear to be rapidly decreasing—although not in a manner consonant with the direct action of deleterious mutations on the fitness of individuals (as per the mutation load paradox).


Increased education has furthermore encouraged individuals to trade fertility against opportunities to enhance their social status and earning power, with the largest fitness losses occurring among those with high status who potentially carry fewer deleterious mutations (i.e., by virtue of possessing higher levels of traits that exhibit some sensitivity to mutation load, such as general intelligence; Spain et al. 2015; Woodley of Menie et al. 2016a). Hitherto not considered is the possibility that the demographic transition represents a potential change in the fitness characteristics of the group-level extended phenotype of modernized populations, indicating that there might exist pathways through which deleterious mutations that accumulate due to ecological mildness could pathologically alter fertility tradeoffs in ways that might account for the maladaptive aspects of the fertility transition (e.g., subreplacement fertility; Basten, Lutz and Scherbov, 2013).


Cooperation, though offering significant fitness benefits to individual organisms and groups, involves some costs for cooperators in order to realize mutual gains for all parties. Free riders are individuals that benefit from cooperation without suffering any of the costs needed to sustain it. Hence, free riders enjoy a fitness advantage relative to cooperators via the former’s parasitism on the latter.


The balance of selection can alternate between the different levels depending on the sorts of selective challenges that a population encounters. For example, group selection may operate on human populations during times of intergroup conflict (i.e., warfare), whereas during times of peace, selection may tend to favor the fitness of individuals instead (Woodley and Figueredo 2013; Wilson 2002). A major factor that seems to permit group-level selection to be viable under certain ecological regimes is the existence of free-rider controls, i.e., features of the group’s social ecology that curb the reproductive fitness of the carriers of “selfish” genetic variants (MacDonald 1994; Wilson 2002).


High-status individuals participate in the generation and vertical cultural transmission of free-rider controls—these take the form of religious and ideological systems which make a virtue out of behaviors that overtly benefit the group, and a vice out of those that only favor individual-level fitness, via the promotion of ethnocentrism, martyrdom, and displays of commitment (MacDonald 1994, 2009, 2010; Wilson 2002). Humans are furthermore equipped with specialized mental adaptations for coordinating as part of a group, such as effortful control—the ability to override implicit behavioral drives via the use of explicit processing systems, which allow them to regulate their behavior based on what is optimal for the group (MacDonald 2008). The interaction between individuals of different degrees of status, i.e., those that generate and maintain cultural norms and those who are merely subject to them, therefore constitutes a form of social epistasis, as the complex patterns of interactions among genomes that characterize human culture have the effect of regulating both individual- and group-level (via the curbing of free-riding) fitness (MacDonald 2009, 2010).

Mutations that push the behavior of high-status individuals away from the promotion of group-selected norms may promote a breakdown of or otherwise alter these social epistatic interactions, causing dysregulation of the group’s reproductive ecology. Behavioral changes are furthermore a highly likely consequence of mutation accumulation, as “behavior” (construed broadly) is a large potential target for new mutations (Miller 2000; Lynch 2016) 1 owing to the fact that approximately 84% of all genes in the human genome are involved in some aspect of brain development and/or maintenance (Hawrylycz et al. 2012).

Consistent with the theorized role of group-level (cultural) regulatory processes in the maintenance of fitness optima, positive correlations exist between religiosity (a major freerider control; MacDonald 1994; Wilson 2002) and fertility, both at the individual differences and cross-cultural levels (Meisenberg 2011). Religiosity has declined in modernized nations—a process that has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of a values system called postmaterialism (Inglehart 1977), which is characterized by the proliferation of individualistic, secular, and antihierarchical values (Welzel 2013). The holding of these values is negatively associated with fertility, both at the individual level (when measured as political liberalism; Goldstone et al. 2011) and across time and cultures (Inglehart and Appel 1989). The rise of postmaterialist values is also associated with increasingly delayed onset of reproduction (Klien 1990) which directly increases the (population) mutation load.

Pathological Altruism

Some of the values embodied in postmaterialism have been linked to the pathological altruism phenomenon, i.e., forms of altruism that damage the intended recipients or givers of largesse (Oakley et al. 2012; Oakley 2013). Virtues associated with altruism such as kindness, fidelity, magnanimity, and heroism, along with quasi-moral traits associated with personality and mental health, may be under sexual selection and might therefore be sensitive, through the f factor, to the deleterious effects of accumulating mutations (Miller 2007).


Another form of pathologically altruistic behavior that Oakley (2013) documents is self-righteousness, which may be increasing, consistent with secular trend data indicating elevated levels of self-regarding behavior among Western populations (sometimes called the narcissism epidemic; Twenge and Campbell 2009). This sort of behavior constitutes a key component of the clever silly phenomenon in which the embrace of counterfactual beliefs is used to leverage social status via virtue signaling (e.g., the conflation of moral equality among individuals, sexes, and populations with biological equality) (Dutton and van der Linden 2015; Charlton 2009; Woodley 2010). There may be a greater number of influential persons inclined to disseminate such beliefs, in that the prevalence of phenotypes disposed toward egoistic behaviors may have increased in Western populations (per Twenge and coworkers’ research), and because egoists, specifically Machiavellians and narcissists, appear advantaged in the acquisition of elite societal stations (Spurk et al. 2015).

[Do Bad Guys Get Ahead or Fall Behind? Relationships of the Dark Triad of Personality With Objective and Subjective Career Success: http://sci-hub.tw/http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550615609735

After controlling for other relevant variables (i.e., gender, age, job tenure, organization size, education, and work hours), narcissism was positively related to salary, Machiavellianism was positively related to leadership position and career satisfaction, and psychopathy was negatively related to all analyzed outcomes.]


By altering cultural norms, elite egoists may encourage the efflorescence of selfish behaviors against which some older and once highly influential cultural systems acted. For example, Christianity in various forms strongly promoted personal sacrifice for the good of groups and proscribed egoistic behaviors (Rubin 2015), but has declined significantly in terms of cultural power following modernization (Inglehart 1977). Thus, it is possible that a feedback loop exists wherein deleterious mutation accumulation raises population levels of egoism, either directly or indirectly, via the breakdown of developmental constraints on personality canalization; the resultantly greater number of egoists are then able to exploit relevant personality traits to attain positions of sociocultural influence; and through these … [more]
study  speculation  models  biodet  bio  sapiens  evolution  genetic-load  paternal-age  the-monster  slippery-slope  society  social-structure  free-riding  coordination  EGT  dynamical  🌞  fertility  dysgenics  eh  self-control  obesity  altruism  mutation  multi  twitter  social  commentary  perturbation  gnon  new-religion  science-anxiety  population-genetics  biophysical-econ  hmm  discipline  autism  scitariat  clown-world  epidemiology  malaise  sociology  demographic-transition  blowhards  model-organism  nonlinearity  civilization  expression-survival  universalism-particularism  order-disorder  trends  deep-materialism  values  ideology  domestication  cohesion  christopher-lasch  scale  patho-altruism  social-capital  behavioral-gen  madisonian  chart  nihil  aristos  piracy  theos  cultural-dynamics  roots  zeitgeist  rot  the-bones  counter-revolution  pdf  modernity  microfoundations  video  presentation  religion  christianity  health  longevity  ethnocentrism  genetic-correlation  👽  instinct 
march 2017 by nhaliday
I Want a New Drug | West Hunter
Big pharma has taken a new course over the past few years. In the past, most useful drugs originated in some kind of living organism – penicillin, quinine, insulin, etc etc. Nowadays, big pharmaceutical companies use combinatorial chemistry and computer modeling. Merck has sold off its biological-products research arm. This new approach, combined with doubled spending on drug R&D, has been a resounding failure. The rate of development of fundamentally new drugs – ‘new molecular entities’ – is running about 40% of that seen in the 1970s. Since big pharma makes its money from drugs that are still on patent, this slowed innovation is a real threat to their bottom line.


I think that this is an instance of a more general trend: often a modern, advanced approach shows up, and it persists long after it’s been shown to be a miserable failure. You can see some of the reasons why: the people trained in the new technique would lose out if it were abandoned. Hard to imagine combinatorial chemists rooting around in a garbage can looking for moldy fruit.
west-hunter  discussion  pharma  medicine  FDA  randy-ayndy  regularizer  critique  minimalism  bio  nature  low-hanging  drugs  error  scitariat  info-dynamics  innovation  ideas  discovery  meta:medicine  stagnation  parasites-microbiome  the-trenches  alt-inst  dirty-hands  regulation  civil-liberty  proposal  corporation  fashun 
february 2017 by nhaliday
China invents the digital totalitarian state | The Economist
PROGRAMMING CHINA: The Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security: https://www.merics.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/171212_China_Monitor_44_Programming_China_EN__0.pdf
- The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a form of authoritarianism that cannot be measured through traditional political scales like reform versus retrenchment. This version of authoritarianism involves both “hard” and “soft” authoritarian methods that constantly act together.
- To describe the social management process, this paper introduces a new analytical framework called China’s “Autonomic Nervous System” (ANS). This approach explains China’s social management process through a complex systems engineering framework. This framework mirrors the CCP’s Leninist way of thinking.
- The framework describes four key parts of social management, visualized through ANS’s “self-configuring,” “self-healing,” “self-optimizing” and “self-protecting” objectives.

China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3175792

The Chinese government is not the only entity that has access to millions of faces + identifying information. So do Google, Facebook, Instagram, and anyone who has scraped information from similar social networks (e.g., US security services, hackers, etc.).

In light of such ML capabilities it seems clear that anti-ship ballistic missiles can easily target a carrier during the final maneuver phase of descent, using optical or infrared sensors (let alone radar).

China goes all-in on technology the US is afraid to do right.
US won't learn its lesson in time for CRISPR or AI.

Artificial intelligence is developing fast in China. But is it likely to enable the suppression of freedoms? One of China's most successful investors, Neil Shen, has a short answer to that question. Also, Chinese AI companies now have the potential to overtake their Western rivals -- we explain why. Anne McElvoy hosts with The Economist's AI expert, Tom Standage

the dude just stonewalls when asked at 7:50, completely zipped lips

What you’re looking at above is the work of SenseTime, a Chinese computer vision startup. The software in question, called SenseVideo, is a visual scenario analytics system. Basically, it can analyse video footage to pinpoint whether moving objects are humans, cars, or other entities. It’s even sophisticated enough to detect gender, clothing, and the type of vehicle it’s looking at, all in real time.


Even China’s Backwater Cities Are Going Smart: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001452/even-chinas-backwater-cities-are-going-smart

remember that tweet with the ML readout of Chinese surveilance cameras? Get ready for the future (via @triviumchina)

XI praised the organization and promised to help it beef up its operations (China
- "China will 'help ... 100 developing countries build or upgrade communication systems and crime labs in the next five years'"
- "The Chinese government will establish an international law enforcement institute under the Ministry of Public Security which will train 20,000 police for developing nations in the coming five years"

The Chinese connection to the Zimbabwe 'coup': http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/17/africa/china-zimbabwe-mugabe-diplomacy/index.html

China to create national name-and-shame system for ‘deadbeat borrowers’: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2114768/china-create-national-name-and-shame-system-deadbeat-borrowers
Anyone who fails to repay a bank loan will be blacklisted and have their personal details made public

China Snares Innocent and Guilty Alike to Build World’s Biggest DNA Database: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-snares-innocent-and-guilty-alike-to-build-worlds-biggest-dna-database-1514310353
Police gather blood and saliva samples from many who aren’t criminals, including those who forget ID cards, write critically of the state or are just in the wrong place

Many of the ways Chinese police are collecting samples are impermissible in the U.S. In China, DNA saliva swabs or blood samples are routinely gathered from people detained for violations such as forgetting to carry identity cards or writing blogs critical of the state, according to documents from a national police DNA conference in September and official forensic journals.

Others aren’t suspected of any crime. Police target certain groups considered a higher risk to social stability. These include migrant workers and, in one city, coal miners and home renters, the documents show.


In parts of the country, law enforcement has stored DNA profiles with a subject’s other biometric information, including fingerprints, portraits and voice prints, the heads of the DNA program wrote in the Chinese journal Forensic Science and Technology last year. One provincial police force has floated plans to link the data to a person’s information such as online shopping records and entertainment habits, according to a paper presented at the national police DNA conference. Such high-tech files would create more sophisticated versions of paper dossiers that police have long relied on to keep tabs on citizens.

Marrying DNA profiles with real-time surveillance tools, such as monitoring online activity and cameras hooked to facial-recognition software, would help China’s ruling Communist Party develop an all-encompassing “digital totalitarian state,” says Xiao Qiang, adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Information.


A teenage boy studying in one of the county’s high schools recalled that a policeman came into his class after lunch one day this spring and passed out the collection boxes. Male students were told to clean their mouths, spit into the boxes and place them into envelopes on which they had written their names.


Chinese police sometimes try to draw connections between ethnic background or place of origin and propensity for crime. Police officers in northwestern China’s Ningxia region studied data on local prisoners and noticed that a large number came from three towns. They decided to collect genetic material from boys and men from every clan to bolster the local DNA database, police said at the law-enforcement DNA conference in September.

China is certainly in the lead in the arena of digital-biometric monitoring. Particularly “interesting” is the proposal to merge DNA info with online behavioral profiling.



This is the thing I find the most disenchanting about the current political spectrum. It's all reheated ideas that are a century old, at least. Everyone wants to run our iPhone society with power structures dating to the abacus.
Thank God for the forward-thinking Chinese Communist Party and its high-tech social credit system!


INSIDE CHINA'S VAST NEW EXPERIMENT IN SOCIAL RANKING: https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/

The government thinks "social credit" will fix the country's lack of trust — and the public agrees.

To be Chinese today is to live in a society of distrust, where every opportunity is a potential con and every act of generosity a risk of exploitation. When old people fall on the street, it’s common that no one offers to help them up, afraid that they might be accused of pushing them in the first place and sued. The problem has grown steadily since the start of the country’s economic boom in the 1980s. But only recently has the deficit of social trust started to threaten not just individual lives, but the country’s economy and system of politics as a whole. The less people trust each other, the more the social pact that the government has with its citizens — of social stability and harmony in exchange for a lack of political rights — disintegrates.

All of which explains why Chinese state media has recently started to acknowledge the phenomenon — and why the government has started searching for solutions. But rather than promoting the organic return of traditional morality to reduce the gulf of distrust, the Chinese government has preferred to invest its energy in technological fixes. It’s now rolling out systems of data-driven “social credit” that will purportedly address the problem by tracking “good” and “bad” behavior, with rewards and punishments meted out accordingly. In the West, plans of this sort have tended to spark fears about the reach of the surveillance state. Yet in China, it’s being welcomed by a public fed up of not knowing who to trust.

It’s unsurprising that a system that promises to place a check on unfiltered power has proven popular — although it’s… [more]
news  org:rec  org:biz  china  asia  institutions  government  anglosphere  privacy  civil-liberty  individualism-collectivism  org:anglo  technocracy  authoritarianism  managerial-state  intel  sinosphere  order-disorder  madisonian  orient  protocol  n-factor  internet  domestication  multi  commentary  hn  society  huge-data-the-biggest  unaffiliated  twitter  social  trust  hsu  scitariat  anonymity  computer-vision  gnon  🐸  leviathan  arms  oceans  sky  open-closed  alien-character  dirty-hands  backup  podcast  audio  interview  ai  antidemos  video  org:foreign  ratty  postrat  expansionism  developing-world  debt  corruption  anomie  organizing  dark-arts  alt-inst  org:lite  africa  orwellian  innovation  biotech  enhancement  GWAS  genetics  genomics  trends  education  crime  criminal-justice  criminology  journos-pundits  chart  consumerism  entertainment  within-group  urban-rural  geography  org:mag  modernity  flux-stasis  hmm  comparison  speedometer  reddit  discussion  ssc  mobile  futurism  absolute-relative  apple  scale  cohesion  cooperate-defect  coordinati 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Competent Elites - Less Wrong

Cochran: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:d8fc1403ad19

How to Become a C.E.O.? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/upshot/how-to-become-a-ceo-the-quickest-path-is-a-winding-one.html
New evidence shows that a mix of skills, especially technology skills, counts more than simply long experience in one specialty.

What Does a C.E.O. Actually Do?: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/c-e-o-actually/

On empathy: psychopaths, sociopaths and aspies: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-empathy-psychopaths-sociopaths-and.html
Last week a startup CTO, who didn't know my background, characterized all CEOs as "warm sociopaths" :-) He is at least partly right: many business and political leaders are good at reading other people's thoughts and emotions, but lack genuine concern for their well being. On the other hand, many geeks are very bad at mind reading or emotional perception, yet adhere to a strict moral code.

East Asian sociopaths?: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/east-asian-sociopaths.html
Some would assert that CEOs and other people in leadership positions are often warm sociopaths. Interestingly, it is claimed that there is a huge variation between groups in the rate of sociopathy. Perhaps this is related to the under-representation of E. Asians in leadership positions in the West, despite their high educational achievements? (Instead of sociopathy other factors like aggressiveness in interpersonal relationships might play a role.)

THE ILLUSION OF ASIAN SUCCESS: Scant Progress for Minorities in Cracking the Glass Ceiling from 2007–2015: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ascendleadership.org/resource/resmgr/research/TheIllusionofAsianSuccess.pdf
Asians are not making it into top ranks at tech firms.
EPI = %exec / %professionals
MPI = %managers / %professionals

CEOs really are worth more than they used to be: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/ceos-really-are-worth-more-than-they-used-to-be
more: https://twitter.com/s8mb/status/762711050437419008
More silliness on executive pay: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/yes-chief-executives-really-do-matter
ratty  lesswrong  hmm  impro  high-variance  impact  business  rhetoric  reflection  power  optimate  success  big-yud  multi  hsu  scitariat  signal-noise  leadership  humility  elite  entrepreneurialism  s-factor  organizing  stereotypes  iq  personality  discipline  ability-competence  management  class  strategy  career  planning  data  idk  jobs  long-term  tactics  org:rec  empirical  working-stiff  org:data  progression  knowledge  org:lite  brands  economics  labor  industrial-org  study  summary  audio  podcast  interview  albion  econotariat  nl-and-so-can-you  econometrics  natural-experiment  randy-ayndy  links  twitter  social  discussion  wonkish  chart  winner-take-all  trends  inequality  wealth  compensation  article  org:ngo  org:anglo  random  pdf  white-paper  race  demographics  asia  analysis  visualization  time-series  diversity  commentary  gnon  unaffiliated  right-wing  sv  tech  usa  the-west  california  corporation  psychiatry  socs-and-mops  pop-diff  speculation  psychology  morality  cooperate-defect  explanans  n-factor  disease  self-interest  crooked  vampi 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Common law and the origin of shareholder protection
This paper examines the origins of investor protection under the common law by analysing the development of shareholder protection in Victorian Britain, the home of the common law. In this era, very little was codified, with corporate law simply suggesting a default template of rules. Ultimately, the matter of protection was one for the corporation and its shareholders. Using c.500 articles of association and ownership records of publicly-traded Victorian corporations, we find that corporations afforded investors with just as much protection as is present in modern corporate law and that firms with better shareholder protection had more diffuse ownership.
study  economics  cliometrics  industrial-revolution  law  britain  institutions  anglosphere  business  finance  history  contracts  industrial-org  anglo  wonkish  early-modern  roots  the-great-west-whale  capitalism  broad-econ  political-econ  protocol  pre-ww2  modernity  north-weingast-like  corporation  axioms  organizing  interests 
january 2017 by nhaliday
How Does Hedge Fund Activism Reshape Corporate Innovation?
This paper studies how hedge fund activism reshapes corporate innovation. Firms targeted by hedge fund activists experience an improvement in innovation efficiency during the five-year period following the intervention. Despite a tightening in R&D expenditures, target firms experience increases in innovation output, measured by both patent counts and citations, with stronger effects seen among firms with more diversified innovation portfolios. We also find that the reallocation of innovative resources and the redeployment of human capital contribute to the refocusing of the scope of innovation. Finally, additional tests refute alternative explanations attributing the improvement to mean reversion, sample attrition, management’s voluntary reforms, or activists’ stock-picking abilities.
study  economics  finance  investing  innovation  business  industrial-org  econometrics  wonkish  roots  corporation  success 
december 2016 by nhaliday
The Membrane – spottedtoad
All of which is to say that the Internet, which shares many qualities in common with an assemblage of living things except for those clear boundaries and defenses, might well not trend toward increased usability or easier exchange of information over the longer term, even if that is what we have experienced heretofore. The history of evolution is every bit as much a history of parasitism and counterparasitism as it is any kind of story of upward movement toward greater complexity or order. There is no reason to think that we (and still less national or political entities) will necessarily experience technology as a means of enablement and Cool Stuff We Can Do rather than a perpetual set of defenses against scammers of our money and attention. There’s the respect that makes Fake News the news that matters forever more.

THE MADCOM FUTURE: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/The_MADCOM_Future_RW_0926.pdf

ai robocalls/phonetrees/Indian Ocean call centers~biologicalization of corporations thru automation&global com tech

fly-by-night scams double mitotically,covered by outer membrane slime&peptidoglycan

trillion $ corps w/nonspecific skin/neutrophils/specific B/T cells against YOU
ratty  unaffiliated  contrarianism  walls  internet  hacker  risk  futurism  speculation  wonkish  chart  red-queen  parasites-microbiome  analogy  prediction  unintended-consequences  security  open-closed  multi  pdf  white-paper  propaganda  ai  offense-defense  ecology  cybernetics  pessimism  twitter  social  discussion  backup  bio  automation  cooperate-defect  coordination  attention  crypto  money  corporation  accelerationism  threat-modeling  alignment 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : In Praise of Low Needs
We humans have come a long way since we first became human; we’ve innovated and grown our ability to achieve human ends by perhaps a factor of ten million. Not at all shabby, even though it may be small compared to the total factor of growth and innovation that life achieved before humans arrived. But even if humanity’s leap is a great achievement, I fear that we have much further to go than we have come.

The universe seems almost entirely dead out there. There’s a chance it will eventually be densely filled with life, and that our descendants may help to make that happen. Some worry about the quality of that life filling the universe, and yes there are issues there. But I worry mostly about the difference between life and death. Our descendants may kill themselves or stop growing, and fail to fill the universe with life. Any life.

To fill the universe with life requires that we grow far more than our previous leap factor of ten million. More like three to ten factors that big still to go. (See Added below.) So think of all the obstacles we’ve overcome so far, obstacles that appeared when we reached new scales of size and levels of ability. If we were lucky to make it this far, we’ll have to be much more lucky to make it all the way.


Added 28Oct: Assume humanity’s leap factor is 107. Three of those is 1021. As there are 1024 stars in observable universe, that much growth could come from filling one in a thousand of those stars with as many rich humans as Earth now has. Ten of humanity’s leap is 1070, and there are now about 1010 humans on Earth. As there are about 1080 atoms in the observable universe, that much growth could come from finding a way to implement one human like creature per atom.
hanson  contrarianism  stagnation  trends  values  farmers-and-foragers  essay  rhetoric  new-religion  ratty  spreading  phalanges  malthus  formal-values  flux-stasis  economics  growth-econ  status  fashun  signaling  anthropic  fermi  nihil  death  risk  futurism  hierarchy  ranking  discipline  temperance  threat-modeling  existence  wealth  singularity  smoothness  discrete  scale  magnitude  population  physics  estimate  uncertainty  flexibility  rigidity  capitalism  heavy-industry  the-world-is-just-atoms  nature  corporation  institutions  coarse-fine 
october 2016 by nhaliday
OSF | Answering Unresolved Questions about the Relationship between Cognitive Ability and Prejudice
Previous research finds that lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice (Onraet et al., 2015). We test two unresolved questions about this association using a heterogeneous set of target groups and data from a representative sample of the United States (N=5914). First, we test “who are the targets of prejudice?” We replicate prior negative associations between cognitive ability and prejudice for groups who are perceived as liberal, unconventional, and having lower levels of choice over group membership. We find the opposite(i.e. positive associations), however, for groups perceived as conservative, conventional, and having higher levels of choice over group membership. Second, we test “who shows intergroup bias?” and find that people with both relatively higher and lower levels of cognitive ability show approximately equal levels of intergroup bias, but towards different sets of groups.

@democracyfund data: @realDonaldTrump and @HillaryClinton voters' evaluations of social groups

Education is Related to Greater Ideological Prejudice: https://academic.oup.com/poq/article-abstract/81/4/930/4652248
Decades of research have shown that education reduces individuals’ prejudices toward people who belong to different groups, but this research has focused predominantly on prejudice toward ethnic/racial groups, immigrant groups, and general nonconformists. However, it is not clear whether education reduces other prejudices against groups along different dimensions, including ideological identification. An analysis of American National Election Studies data from 1964 to 2012 shows that education is related to decreases in interethnic/interracial prejudice, but also to increases in ideological (liberal vs. conservative) prejudice. This finding could not be explained simply by the greater polarization of the American electorate in the past twenty years. The results require rethinking how and why education is associated with reduced prejudice for certain groups but not others.
psychology  study  iq  anthropology  race  politics  field-study  stereotypes  correlation  tribalism  discrimination  us-them  poll  prejudice  polarization  coalitions  identity-politics  ideology  data  visualization  crosstab  religion  christianity  theos  corporation  military  protestant-catholic  class  class-warfare  labor  other-xtian  gender  redistribution  welfare-state  migration  islam  sex  sexuality  asia  latin-america  patho-altruism  ethnocentrism  chart  multi  twitter  social  commentary  emotion  values  trump  clinton  2016-election  backup  pic  phalanges  database  general-survey  polisci  education  higher-ed  human-capital  preprint  hari-seldon 
july 2016 by nhaliday
Too much of a good thing | The Economist
None of these accounts, though, explain the most troubling aspect of America’s profit problem: its persistence. Business theory holds that firms can at best enjoy only temporary periods of “competitive advantage” during which they can rake in cash. After that new companies, inspired by these rich pickings, will pile in to compete away those fat margins, bringing prices down and increasing both employment and investment. It’s the mechanism behind Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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