nhaliday + malaise   146

Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
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11 days ago by nhaliday
Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold | Poetry Foundation
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Searching For Ithaca: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/searching-for-ithaca/
I have found in revisiting the work for the first time in probably five years that it is, like Laurus, a snapshot of a culture that was decidedly more in tune with the divine. It’s been amazing to read and hear about the daily involvement of the gods in the lives of humans. Whether accurate or not, it’s astonishing to hear men talk about bad luck as a consequence of irritating the gods, or as a recognition that some part of the man/god balance has been altered.

But this leads me to the sadder part of this experience: the fact that I want so badly to believe in the truths of Christianity, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Nor can I bring myself to believe (and I mean truly believe, at the level of the soul’s core) in the gods of Olympus, or in any other form of supernatural thought. The reason I can’t, despite years of effort and regular prayer and Mass attendance, is because I too am a prisoner of Enlightenment thought. I too am a modern, as much as I wish I could truly create a premodern sensibility. I wish I could believe that Adam and Eve existed, that Moses parted the sea, that Noah sailed an ark, that Jesus rode a donkey into town, that the skies darkened as his soul ascended, that the Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead.


The two guiding themes of The Odyssey are quo vadis (where are you going?) and amor fati (love/acceptance of fate). When I was still a college professor, I relentlessly drilled these themes into my students’ heads. Where are you going? What end are you aiming for? Accept the fate you are given and you will never be unsatisfied! Place yourself in harmony with events as they happen to you! Control what you can control and leave the rest to the divine! Good notions all, and I would give virtually anything to practice what I preach. I would give anything to be a Catholic who knew where he was going, who accepted God’s plans for him. It kills me that I cannot.


That question near the end of The Odyssey gets me every time: “And tell me this: I must be absolutely sure. This place I’ve reached, is it truly Ithaca?” I yearn for Ithaca; I yearn for home. I only wish I knew how to get there.
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august 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.


So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.


To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!


Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America - Bloomberg
“It reminds me of a craps table,” Brown, the commercial real estate analyst, says. “Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It’s based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren’t going to get better in any of these places.”

HOW DOLLAR GENERAL BECAME RURAL AMERICA’S STORE OF CHOICE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-dollar-general-became-rural-americas-store-of-choice-1512401992

The Supply Chain In Lieu Of The Welfare State: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/12/04/the-supply-chain-in-lieu-of-the-welfare-state/

“Over the last five years a new Dollar General opened every four-and-a-half hours…”

That is from The Economist. The article attributes much of the success of the chain to its location decisions, such as opening near churches, schools, highways, and post offices.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Where Has Progress Got Us? - NYTimes.com
THE TRUE AND ONLY HEAVEN Progress and Its Critics. By Christopher Lasch. 591 pp. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. $25.

reviewed by William Julius Wilson

Lower-middle-class culture, Mr. Lasch argues, reflects an emphasis on the family, the church and the neighborhood. A community's continuity is valued more highly than individual advancement, social solidarity is favored over social mobility and the maintenance of existing ways takes precedent over mainstream ideals of success. Parents want their children to succeed in life, but they also want them to be considerate of their elders, to willingly bear their responsibilities and to show courage under adversity. "More concerned with honor than with worldly ambition, they have less interest in the future than do upper-middle-class parents, who try to equip their children with the qualities required for competitive advancement."

Mr. Lasch acknowledges the provincialism and narrowness of lower-middle-class culture, and he does not deny that "it has produced racism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, and all the other evils so often cited by liberal critics." But, he maintains, in their zeal to condemn such objectionable traits, liberals have failed to see the valuable features of petty-bourgeois culture -- what he calls moral realism, skepticism about progress, respect for limits and understanding that everything has its price.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The rise of robots in the German labour market | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal
Recent research has shown that industrial robots have caused severe job and earnings losses in the US. This column explores the impact of robots on the labour market in Germany, which has many more robots than the US and a much larger manufacturing employment share. Robots have had no aggregate effect on German employment, and robot exposure is found to actually increase the chances of workers staying with their original employer. This effect seems to be largely down to efforts of work councils and labour unions, but is also the result of fewer young workers entering manufacturing careers.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Love Thy Neighbor? Ethnoracial Diversity and Trust Reexamined: American Journal of Sociology: Vol 121, No 3
For whites, heterogeneity means more out-group neighbors; for nonwhites, heterogeneity means more in-group neighbors. Therefore, separate analyses were conducted by ethnoracial groups. Only for whites does living among out-group members—not in diverse communities per se—negatively predict trust.

doesn't really change the essential lesson
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The Complacent Intellectual Class | David V. Johnson
I WOULD LIKE TO COIN A PHRASE, the complacent intellectual class, to describe the overwhelming number of pundits, thought leaders, and policy wonks who accept, welcome, or even enforce slovenly scholarship. These people might, in the abstract, like research that maintains the highest standards, they might even consider themselves academics or bona fide researchers, when in fact they have lost the capacity of maintaining even the most basic standards of rigor.

I am motivated to do so after reading Tyler Cowen’s new book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I propose the term with some trepidation. Cowen—a George Mason University economist, libertarian theorist, and “legendary blogger” (to quote the book’s inset)—is often a smart commentator who puts his finger on a lot of interesting social phenomena, introduces novel ideas, and proves worth reading from time to time.

But books are different from blog posts and op-eds. And this book fails so glaringly that it makes me despair for this country’s literary culture and intellectual life in general. So let me use Cowen’s latest venture to illustrate what we should all demand from the work of our intellectual class, lest our nation continue to vegetate in the pretend-thinking of #AspenIdeas pseudo-academia.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade
Adjustment in local labor markets is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed and unemployment rates remaining elevated for at least a full decade after the China trade shock commences. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income. At the national level, employment has fallen in the US industries more exposed to import competition, as expected, but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize.

Slicing the Pie: Quantifying the Aggregate and Distributional Effects of Trade: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23737
We find that the China shock increases average welfare but some groups experience losses as high as five times the average gain. Adjusted for plausible measures of inequality aversion, gains in social welfare are positive and only slightly lower than with the standard aggregation.

The Surprisingly Swift Decline of US Manufacturing Employment: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20131578
- Justin R. Pierce, Peter K. Schott
This paper links the sharp drop in US manufacturing employment after 2000 to a change in US trade policy that eliminated potential tariff increases on Chinese imports. Industries more exposed to the change experience greater employment loss, increased imports from China, and higher entry by US importers and foreign-owned Chinese exporters. At the plant level, shifts toward less labor-intensive production and exposure to the policy via input-output linkages also contribute to the decline in employment. Results are robust to other potential explanations of employment loss, and there is no similar reaction in the European Union, where policy did not change.

China-Like Wages Now Part Of U.S. Employment Boom: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/08/04/china-like-wages-now-part-of-u-s-employment-boom/

U.S. Companies Were Hurt by Trade With China Too: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-12-12/u-s-companies-were-hurt-by-trade-with-china-too
David Autor and David Dorn are two human wrecking balls smashing the edifice of economics consensus. For decades, the one big thing economists could agree on was that free trade, on balance, was good for the U.S. economy. Now, in a series of papers with a variety of co-authors, Autor and Dorn have shown that the dramatic increase in U.S. trade with China in the 2000s was a different and far more destructive beast -- a phenomenon commonly called the China Shock.

The first of these papers showed that the China Shock left deep and lasting scars on huge swathes of the American workforce. The second demonstrated that the China Shock increased political polarization. Now, together with Gordon Hanson, Pian Shu, and Gary Pisano, the wrecking-ball duo have a third paper, showing that the China Shock decreased U.S. corporate innovation.

Importing Political Polarization?: The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure: http://economics.mit.edu/files/11499
Trade-exposed districts with an initial majority white population or initially in Republican hands became substantially more likely to elect a conservative Republican, while trade-exposed districts with an initial majority-minority population or initially in Democratic hands became more likely to elect a liberal Democrat.

The China Shock was Matched by a China Boom: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/01/china-shock-matched-china-boom.html
Our results fit the textbook story that job opportunities in exports make up for jobs lost in import-competing industries, or nearly so. Once we consider the export side, the negative employment effect of trade is much smaller than is implied in the previous literature. Although our analysis finds net job losses in the manufacturing sector for the US, there are remarkable job gains in services, suggesting that international trade has an impact on the labour market according to comparative advantage. The US has comparative advantages in services, so that overall trade led to higher employment through the increased demand for service jobs.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Seven charts that show how the developed world is losing its edge
Savings China’s gross savings (at market exchange rates) are nearly as large as those of the US and EU combined. China saves almost half of its national income. This extraordinarily high share is likely to fall but that decline is set to be gradual, since Chinese households are likely to remain frugal and the share of profits in national income is likely to remain high.

80% of the US had no real increase in income 2005 to 2012-2014

Time to worry about the American consumer?: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/08/03/2192172/time-to-worry-about-the-american-consumer/
Two basic ways to spend more money: you can earn more and save the same, or you can earn the same and save less. Newly revised data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that American consumers have spent the past two years embracing option 2. The average American now saves about 35 per cent less than in 2015:


Not since the beginning of 2008 have Americans saved so little — and that’s before accounting for inflation. It could be a sign of trouble ahead.

this seems not good

China's Financial Debt: Everything You Know Is Wrong: http://www.unz.com/article/chinas-financial-debt-everything-you-know-is-wrong/
As China Piles on Debt, Consumers Seek a Piece of the Action: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/business/china-debt-consumers.html
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july 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
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) - Reason.com
This is like a reversal of the industrious revolution studied in my JEBO paper: new consumption technologies are money cheap but time pricey

participation has changed along an understudied margin of labor supply. I find that “in-and-outs”—men who temporarily leave the labor force—represent a growing fraction of prime age men across multiple data sources and are responsible for roughly one third of the decline in the participation rate since 1977. In-and-outs take short, infrequent breaks out of the labor force in between jobs, but they are otherwise continuously attached to the labor force. Leading explanations for the growing share of permanent labor force dropouts, such as disability, do not apply to in-and-outs. Instead, reduced-form evidence and a structural model of household labor supply both indicate that the rise of in-and-outs reflects a shift in labor supply, largely due to the increasing earnings of men’s partners and the growth of men living with their parents.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen. My thoughts:

1. When we think of labor force participation declining, we think of, say, John Smith, deciding to never work again. What this paper is saying is that the statistics reflect something different. One month Smith takes a break, then next month he gets a job and Tom Jones takes a break.

2. I think we have always had a large number of workers who are not fully employed year round. That is, there have always been a lot of workers who take breaks between jobs. This is common in construction work, for example.

3. I don’t know if this matters for the phenomenon at hand, but we used to have inventory recessions. In those cases, workers would be out of a job for a while, but they would still be in the labor force, because they were waiting to be recalled by the firm that had laid them off.

4. It seems to me that this is an important paper. Re-read the last sentence in the quoted excerpt.

Job outlook growing worse for young American men: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/01/02/job-outlook-growing-worse-young-american-men-opinion/996922001/
As one might imagine, the absence of a job, quality education, or spouse has not bred otherwise productive citizens. Multiple studies have found that young men have replaced what would otherwise be working hours with leisure time at a near 1-1 ratio. Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, found that young men spent a startling 75 percent of this leisure time playing video games, with many spending more than 30 hours a week gaming and over 5 million Americans spending more than 45 hours per week.

Higher suicide rates, violent crime, and drug addiction among young men have followed. Suicide rates in the United States are at a 30-year high, with men more than three and a half times more likely to take their own lives than women. Around the United States, violent crimes, homicide in particular, has increased in two-thirds of American cities, with overwhelming young male perpetrators driving the increase. A 2015 Brookings Institute study estimated that nearly half of working-age American men who are out of the labor force are using painkillers, daily.

These problems have been “invisible” for too long.

As video games get better, young men work less and play more: http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/video-games-get-better-young-men-work-less-and-play-more

Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force?: https://www.kansascityfed.org/~/media/files/publicat/econrev/econrevarchive/2018/1q18tuzemen.pdf

Prime-Age Men May Never Return to U.S. Workforce, Fed Paper Says: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-23/prime-age-men-may-never-return-to-u-s-workforce-fed-paper-says
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june 2017 by nhaliday
My review of Robert Gordon's *Rise and Fall of American Growth* - Marginal REVOLUTION
And here is the “oops” aspect of the book:

What Gordon neglects to mention, however, is that he is also the author of a 2003 Brookings essay titled “Exploding Productivity Growth,” in which he optimistically predicted that productivity in the United States would grow by 2.2 to 2.8 percent for the next two decades, most likely averaging 2.5 percent a year; he even suggested that a three percent rate was possible.

…Gordon offers a brief history of the evolution of his views on productivity. Yet he does not mention the 2003 essay, nor does he explain why he has changed his mind so dramatically. He also fails to cite other proponents of the stagnation thesis, even though…their work predates his book.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
GDP Per Capita Growth -- 1980s Growth Patterns & Economic Policy | National Review
When we compare the post-2000 era to 1947–2000, a huge divergence in GDP growth per capita emerges. Between 1947 and 2000, inflation-adjusted GDP per capita grew a little over 2 percent a year. Since 2000, it has grown at about 0.9 percent a year. So, GDP growth per person has more than halved since Y2K. This slowdown in per capita GDP growth is unprecedented in the postwar era. In no 15-year period between 1947 and 2000 did average annual GDP growth per capita fall below 1.5 percent, so a 15-year stretch of under 1 percent is a radical departure from recent history.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Who Will Make Our Coffee in Pret? | Quillette
Immigrants Keep an Iowa Meatpacking Town Alive and Growing: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/29/business/economy/storm-lake-iowa-immigrant-workers.html
Waves of Asian, African and Latino newcomers have filled jobs at pork, egg and turkey plants where wages have fallen and work has grown more grueling.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The eternal Axial Age – Gene Expression
Into situation stepped Sulla. Sulla is not a contingent man. Sulla is a type. A reaction, usually a vain and futile attempt to hold the past together, and push it into the future, by brutal means. Sulla arises when social elites lose faith in the present, and attempt to recreate institutions from an idealized past.

Sulla is efficient. Cruel, but certain in his rightness. Sulla is not a clown. He is not narcissistic, for Sulla does have ideals, even if you hold that those ideals are cruel or callous. Sulla is a piece of furniture, found in many places at many times. The United States of America has not seen Sulla yet. I believe it will.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Audacious Epigone: White despair in the General Social Survey
1/4 WWC report having been depressed, rates still a bit higher for whites among upper classes
Prevalence of Depression by Race/Ethnicity: Findings From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1449298/
A Cross-Ethnic Comparison of Lifetime Prevalence Rates of Anxiety Disorders: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931265/

Racial-Ethnic Differences in Psychiatric Diagnoses and Treatment Across 11 Health Care Systems in the Mental Health Research Network: https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201500217
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may 2017 by nhaliday
What We Do Together: The State of Associational Life in America - Social Capital Project - United States Senator Mike Lee
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Sending Jobs Overseas
*The Great Convergence*: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/11/the-great-convergence.html

Richard Baldwin on the New Globalization: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/04/the-new-globalization.html
To really understand how this changed the nature of globalization, consider a sports analogy. Suppose we have two football teams, one that needs a quarterback but has too many linebackers, and one that needs a linebacker but has too many quarterbacks. If they sit down and trade players, both teams win. It’s arbitrage in players. Each team gets rid of players they need less of and gets players they need more of. That’s the old globalization: exchange of goods.

Now let’s take a different kind of exchange, where the coach of the better team goes to the field of the worse team and starts training those players in the off-season. This is very good for the coach because he gets to sell his knowledge in two places. You can be sure that the quality of the league will rise, all the games will get more competitive, and the team that’s being trained up will enjoy the whole thing. But it’s not at all certain that the players of the better team will benefit from this exchange because the source of their advantage is now being traded.

In this analogy, the better team is, of course, the G7, and not surprisingly this has led to some resentment of globalization in those countries. The new globalization breaks the monopoly that G7 labor had on G7 know-how…

good reviews here:
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Convergence-Information-Technology-Globalization/dp/067466048X
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Is Economic Activity Really “Distributed Less Evenly” Than It Used To Be?

First, imagine if you had a bar chart with every county in the United States sorted from lowest to highest by wages per capita, with the width of each bar proportional to the population of the county.

In fact, whenever anyone talks about “clustering” and “even distributions”, they’re mostly really talking about ways of comparing monotonic curves with integral one, whether they realize it or not.
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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
Income Inequality | Inequality.org
Worsening American Income: Inequality: Is world trade to blame?: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/worsening-american-income-inequality-is-world-trade-to-blame/
America: A dromedary, not a Bactrian camel: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/05/america_a_drome.html

Department of Awful Statistics: Income Inequality Edition: https://thedailybeast.com/department-of-awful-statistics-income-inequality-edition
A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality: https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality
Income inequality in the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States
The Geography of U.S. Inequality: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/06/upshot/up-geo-inequality.html

40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/02/349863761/40-years-of-income-inequality-in-america-in-graphs
good charts of trends in income percentiles, wage stagnation, etc.
Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts: http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/
Middle-class wages are stagnant—Middle-wage workers’ hourly wage is up 6% since 1979, low-wage workers’ wages are down 5%, while those with very high wages saw a 41% increase
Cumulative change in real hourly wages of all workers, by wage percentile,* 1979–2013

A Relentless Widening of Disparity in Wealth: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/business/economy/a-relentless-rise-in-unequal-wealth.html
Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html
American Inequality in Six Charts: http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/american-inequality-in-six-charts

US income inequality: caused by financiers and tech entrepreneurs: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2006/09/us-income-inequality-caused-by.html
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Secular decline in testosterone levels - Rogue Health and Fitness
A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1210/jc.2006-1375
Secular trends in sex hormones and fractures in men and women: http://www.eje-online.org/content/166/5/887.full.pdf
Small n and older sample, but interesting that while testosterone decreases have been large for men they’ve been even larger (in % terms) for women; wonder if this contributes to declining pregnancy and sexual frequency, rising depression.

Strangelove: https://youtu.be/N1KvgtEnABY?t=67

People offering human-centric explanations like cell phones: Note also that the sperm quality of dogs has decreased 30% since 1988.

mendelian rand.:
1 SD genetically instrumented increase in BMI was associated with a 0.25 SD decrease in serum testosterone

Ibuprofen linked to male infertility: study: https://nypost.com/2018/01/08/ibuprofen-linked-to-male-infertility-study/

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


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

But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Get Ready to See This Globalization 'Elephant Chart' Over and Over Again - Bloomberg
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may 2017 by nhaliday
'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' by Thomas Piketty, reviewed | New Republic
by Robert Solow (positive)

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Then economists, many on the left but some on the right, in quick succession from 1880 to the present—at the same time that market-tested betterment was driving real wages up and up and up—commenced worrying about, to name a few of the pessimisms concerning “capitalism” they discerned: greed, alienation, racial impurity, workers’ lack of bargaining strength, workers’ bad taste in consumption, immigration of lesser breeds, monopoly, unemployment, business cycles, increasing returns, externalities, under-consumption, monopolistic competition, separation of ownership from control, lack of planning, post-War stagnation, investment spillovers, unbalanced growth, dual labor markets, capital insufficiency (William Easterly calls it “capital fundamentalism”), peasant irrationality, capital-market imperfections, public … [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Liberalism's Future by R. R. Reno | Articles | First Things
The survey was designed to expose two ranges of preferences. The first concerns how individuals rank their self-interest as compared to the interests of others. A fair-minded person sees them as equal. A selfish person is more likely to prefer his own interests. An “intermediate” person (the term the research paper uses) falls in between. The second preference concerns the relative importance of equality as compared to efficiency. A person who favors equality is willing to accept lower efficiency, while those who favor efficiency focus on growing the pie rather than cutting it evenly.

About half the Yale Law students are intermediates, people who give themselves a bit of a preference. The other half tilts strongly in the direction of the selfish. When it comes to equality or efficiency, which is to say, pie growing, the Yale Law students overwhelmingly opt for the latter.

To illuminate these results, the researchers did some comparative work. They mined data about under­graduates from the University of California at Berkeley. Then they looked at Americans in general.

The comparative results are fascinating. Under­graduates at the University of California at Berkeley tilt even more strongly in the selfish direction than the Yale Law students. They’re also efficiency-focused, though less so. The general population, by contrast, shows markedly different preferences. They’re significantly more likely to be fair-minded than selfish. They’re also more likely to favor cutting the pie equally rather than emphasizing efficiency to grow the pie.


The remarkable preference for efficiency we see in the overwhelmingly Democratic student body at Yale Law School also sheds light on today’s progressive priorities, which focus on identity politics, especially sexual identity. Gay rights are favored by rich liberals in large part because they’re seen as a cost-free way toward greater equality. There are lots of well-educated gays and les­bians who look, act, and think just like other elites. Sexual ­orientation “diversity” requires no bending of meritocratic rules, no set-asides, and no expensive, large-scale government programs.


I regret that places like Yale now use young people in such transparent ways: minorities bring “diversity,” rich kids keep the money flowing, foreign students facilitate the formation of a new global network, and meritocratic winners ensure “excellence.” There’s something intrinsically ugly about engineered “communities,” especially ones engineered for the purpose of maintaining and extending power. (Why would anyone concerned about the future of our society give money to these universities?)

So I wish Yale President Peter Salovey the worst. May the universities continue on their trajectory toward becoming rigid, mechanical, and artificial communities dominated by rent-seeking faculty, populated by alienated students, and governed by feckless administrators. Such institutions cannot attract loyalty, and they cannot create a culture for the future.

In some ways, this is a natural evolution of the increasing importance that racial inclusion has taken on in academic environments. Since the civil rights movement, racial inclusion has in the United States been the central measure of whether an institution has stood by its ethical commitments. Universities and academics were, more than any other institutions, the ones that pursued and promoted that measure of legitimacy, as it was meanwhile incorporated into law in the form of disparate impact legislation and a large portion of federal regulations; clearly their commitment to that ideology extends beyond affirmative action in admissions. Universities seemingly sincerely believe that their role in the world would diminish if they were seen to be non-inclusive institutions. (Seen to be is perhaps the operative term here, since visible diversity is what is most important.) When that ideology turns against the institution itself, what can a college president do but bow before it?

But there probably is still one more source of the inversion of power. Colleges and Universities garner an increasing portion of their donations not from the ordinary millionaires of old, but from the mega-rich created by our New Gilded Age. While the merely rich probably swing conservative in their political beliefs, this is not at all clear of the very richest people in the world; Carlos Slim, for example, #2 on the 2014 list, is the largest shareholder in the New York Times whose editorial board endorsed the protesters, and speakers aligned with the Black Lives Matters protests are have been regular guests at Aspen Ideas, Davos, and similar gatherings of the global rich. Whether Eisgruber is bowing before an impassioned undergraduate– or before the Davos Set’s priorities– is hard to know.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
William Galston: Visions of a Permanent Underclass - WSJ
In 1958, as millions of American high-school students were beginning their long infatuation with George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," a major figure in the British Labour Party, Michael Young, published a far more prescient futurist tract. His essay, "The Rise of the Meritocracy" described a year-2034 dystopia in which general intelligence determined the distribution of income and status.

The losers knew that they were failures, and the ideology of meritocracy had eliminated the moral basis of complaint: The losers deserved their subordination and should accept it. In the end, they didn't, and they revolted against a system that insulted their dignity.

Fifty-five years after Young's neglected classic, economist Tyler Cowen has entered the fray with his latest book, "Average Is Over," which analyzes the dynamics behind the rise of what he terms the "hyper-meritocracy." As his point of departure, he takes some well-known trends—growing economic inequality, falling male wages, declining labor-force participation and the rising share of the national product flowing to capital rather than to labor.

Citing the work of economists such as David Autor, Mr. Cowen depicts a polarizing labor market, increasingly hollowed out as middle-skill, middle-wage jobs disappear. The Great Recession, he argues, unmasked the fact that U.S. employers had taken on more middle-wage workers than they needed or could afford. That's why so many displaced workers are being forced to accept new jobs at lower wages—and why so many others have dropped out of the workforce.

The main driver of these disquieting trends is technology—specifically, smart machines that can do (and do better) an ever-rising share of what human beings do to earn their living. As this proceeds, some will win out: people who work with and around smart machines; managers who can organize these people; individuals with high general intelligence who can size up new situations and quickly learn what they need to know; and conscientious subordinates with the key new virtues of reliability and team play. Everyone else will lose out—except the marketers who know how to appeal to the wealthy.
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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 Have Marriage Rates Declined – spottedtoad
Oh, the Times they are a-Changin: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/oh-the-times-they-are-a-changin/
Is this really because of Tinderpocalypse, or porn, or a second sexual revolution, or the alleged ability of desirable men to avoid commitment because another girl is always a swipe away?

Whatever it is, it seems distinctive and troubling that the marriage rate has generally been dropping more quickly even as the economy has recovered.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
‘How dare you work on whites’: Professors under fire for research on white mortality - The Washington Post
the paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078

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

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

point about expansion of education seems important


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

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

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

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


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

Once It Was Overdue Books. Now Librarians Fight Overdoses.: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/nyregion/librarians-opioid-heroin-overdoses.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The Peculiar Populism of Donald Trump - The New York Times
Instead, he points out, the United States has gone in two seemingly opposite directions over the past 15 years, becoming “significantly more secular-rational, while losing ground on self-expressive values.”

Whites living in low density, exurban and rural areas are driving the shift back toward survival values, Wilkinson argues.


How Fear of Falling Explains the Love of Trump: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/opinion/how-fear-of-falling-explains-the-love-of-trump.html
In these conversations, she said,

it wouldn’t take long before another topic spontaneously came up, blacks, their problems, their call on government help. At the bottom of the imagined slide was the situation of blacks — teen single moms, kids out in the street at night, slacking off in school, drugs, drink. So, yes, the feeling was, “if we don’t turn this thing around, that could be us.”

Why Fathers Leave Their Children: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/why-fathers-leave-their-children.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
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