nhaliday + monetary-fiscal   172

More arguments against blockchain, most of all about trust - Marginal REVOLUTION
Auditing software is hard! The most-heavily scrutinized smart contract in history had a small bug that nobody noticed — that is, until someone did notice it, and used it to steal fifty million dollars. If cryptocurrency enthusiasts putting together a $150m investment fund can’t properly audit the software, how confident are you in your e-book audit? Perhaps you would rather write your own counteroffer software contract, in case this e-book author has hidden a recursion bug in their version to drain your ethereum wallet of all your life savings?

It’s a complicated way to buy a book! It’s not trustless, you’re trusting in the software (and your ability to defend yourself in a software-driven world), instead of trusting other people.
econotariat  marginal-rev  links  commentary  quotes  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  blockchain  crypto  trust  money  monetary-fiscal  technology  software  institutions  government  comparison  cost-benefit  primitivism  eden-heaven 
april 2018 by nhaliday
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”


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

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


For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Sex, Drugs, and Bitcoin: How Much Illegal Activity Is Financed Through Cryptocurrencies? by Sean Foley, Jonathan R. Karlsen, Tālis J. Putniņš :: SSRN
Cryptocurrencies are among the largest unregulated markets in the world. We find that approximately one-quarter of bitcoin users and one-half of bitcoin transactions are associated with illegal activity. Around $72 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin, which is close to the scale of the US and European markets for illegal drugs. The illegal share of bitcoin activity declines with mainstream interest in bitcoin and with the emergence of more opaque cryptocurrencies. The techniques developed in this paper have applications in cryptocurrency surveillance. Our findings suggest that cryptocurrencies are transforming the way black markets operate by enabling “black e-commerce.”
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february 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
The rate of return on everything - Marginal REVOLUTION
Here is what I learned from the paper itself:

1. Risky assets such as equities and residential real estate average about 7% gains per year in real terms.  Housing outperformed equity before WWII, vice versa after WWII.  In any case it is a puzzle that housing returns are less volatile but about at the same level as equity returns over a broader time span.
2. Equity and housing gains have a relatively low covariance.  Buy both!
3. Equity returns across countries have become increasingly correlated, housing returns not.
4. The return on real safe assets is much more volatile than you might think.
5. The equity premium is volatile too.
6. The authors find support for Piketty’s r > g, except near periods of war.  Furthermore, the gap between r and g does not seem to be correlated with the growth rate of the economy.

I found this to be one of the best and most interesting papers of the year.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Grumpy Economist: Bitcoin and Bubbles
Bitcoin is not a very good money. It is a pure fiat money (no backing), whose value comes from limited supply plus these demands. As such it has the huge price fluctuations we see. It's an electronic version of gold, and the price variation should be a warning to economists who long for a return to  gold. My bet is that stable-value cryptocurrencies, offering one dollar per currency unit and low transactions costs, will prosper in the role of money. At least until there is a big inflation or sovereign debt crisis and a stable-value cryptocurrency not linked to government debt emerges.

The Kareken-Wallace Cryptocurrency Price Indeterminacy theorem will someday receive the attention it deserves

Cryptocurrencies also raise in a new way questions of exchange rate indeterminacy. As Kareken and Wallace (1981) observed, fiat currencies are all alike: slips of paper not redeemable for anything. Under a regime of floating exchange rates and no capital controls, and assuming some version of interest rate parity holds, there are an infinity of exchange rates between any two fiat currencies that constitute an equilibrium in their model.

The question of exchange rate indeterminacy is both more and less striking between cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies. It is less striking because there are considerably more differences between cryptocurrencies than there are between paper money. Paper money is all basically the same. Cryptocurrencies sometimes have different characteristics from each other. For example, the algorithm used as the basis for mining makes a difference – it determines how professionalised the mining pools become. Litecoin uses an algorithm that tends to make mining less concentrated. Another difference is the capability of the cryptocurrency’s language for programming transactions. Ethereum is a new currency that boasts a much more robust language than Bitcoin. Zerocash is another currency that offers much stronger anonymity than Bitcoin. To the extent that cryptocurrencies differ from each other more than fiat currencies do, those differences might be able to pin down exchange rates in a model like Kareken and Wallace’s.

On the other hand, exchange rate indeterminacy could be more severe among cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies because it is easy to simply create an exact copy of an open source cryptocurrency. There are even websites on which you can create and download the software for your own cryptocurrency with a few clicks of a mouse. These currencies are exactly alike except for their names and other identifying information. Furthermore, unlike fiat currencies, they don’t benefit from government acceptance or optimal currency area considerations that can tie a currency to a given territory.

Even identical currencies, however, can differ in terms of the quality of governance. Bitcoin currently has high quality governance institutions. The core developers are competent and conservative, and the mining and user communities are serious about making the currency work. An exact Bitcoin clone is likely to have a difficult time competing with Bitcoin unless it can promise similarly high-quality governance. When a crisis hits, users of identical currencies are going to want to hold the one that is mostly likely to weather the storm. Consequently, between currencies with identical technical characteristics, we think governance creates something close to a winner-take-all market. Network externalities are very strong in payment systems, and the governance question with respect to cryptocurrencies in particular compounds them.

Explaining a price rise via future increases in the asset's value isn't good economics. The invisible hand should be pushing today's price up to the point where it earns normal expected returns. +
I don't doubt the likelihood of a future cryptocurrency being widely used, but that doesn't pin down the price of any one cryptocurrency as the Kareken-Wallace result shows. There may be a big first mover advantage for Bitcoin but ease of replication makes it a fragile dominance.

I actually can't believe governments are allowing bitcoin to exist (they must be fully on board with going digital at some point)

btc will eventually come in direct competition with national currencies, which will have to raise rates dramatically, or die

The technology of Bitcoin Cash is very similar to the technology of Bitcoin. It offers the same sorts of anonymity, security, and so forth. There are some reasons to believe that in the future, Bitcoin Cash will be a bit easier to trade than Bitcoin (though that is not true in the present), and there are some other technological differences between them, but I’d be surprised to learn that those differences are accounting for any substantial fraction of the price differential.

The total supplies of Bitcoins and of Bitcoin Cash are currently about equal (because of the way that Bitcoin Cash originated). In each case, the supply will gradually grow to 21 million and then stop.

Question 1: Given the near identical properties of these two currencies, how can one sell for ten times the price of the other? Perhaps the answer involves the word “bubble”, but I’d be more interested in answers that assume (at least for the sake of argument) that the price of Bitcoin fairly reflects its properties as a store of value. Given that assumption, is the price differential entirely driven by the fact that Bitcoin came first? Is there that much of a first-mover advantage in this kind of game?

Question 2: Given the existence of other precious metals (e.g. platinum) what accounts for the dominance of gold as a physical store of value? (I note, for example, that when people buy gold as a store of value, they don’t often hesitate out of fear that gold will be displaced by platinum in the foreseeable future.) Is this entirely driven by the fact that gold happened to come first?

Question 3: Are Questions 1 and 2 the same question? Are the dominance of Bitcoin in the digital store-of-value market and the dominance of gold in the physical store-of-value market two sides of the same coin, so to speak? Or do they require fundamentally different explanations?

Champ/Freeman in 2001 explain why the dollar-bitcoin exchange rate is inherently unstable, and why the price of cryptocurrencies is indeterminate:

Lay down a marker:
And remember that the modern macro dogma is that monetary systems matter little for prosperity, once bare competence is achieved.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. ("Civilizational decline," as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

5. The Chinese have almost entirely closed the technology gap with the West, and dominate important areas of manufacturing. It seems very likely that their economy will eventually become significantly larger than the US economy. This is the world that strategists have to prepare for. Wars involving religious fanatics in unimportant regions of the world should not distract us from a possible future conflict with a peer competitor that threatens to match or exceed our economic, technological, and even military capability.

However, I'm not sure that OBOR (One Belt One Road) and a focus on the "world island" of Eurasia will be a winning strategy for China. Mackinder's dream of a unified or even fully economically integrated world island will have to overcome the limitations (in human capital, institutions, culture, etc.) of the under-developed middle...

The belt-and-road express: China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21721678-silk-routes-are-not-always-appealing-they-sound-china-faces-resistance-cherished-theme

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities | The American Conservative
Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/world-view/some-notes-finances-top-chinese-universities
A glimpse into the finances of top Chinese universities suggests they share more than we might have imagined with American flagship public universities, but also that claims of imminent “catch up” might be overblown
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Tax Evasion and Inequality
This paper attempts to estimate the size and distribution of tax evasion in rich countries. We combine stratified random audits—the key source used to study tax evasion so far—with new micro-data leaked from two large offshore financial institutions, HSBC Switzerland (“Swiss leaks”) and Mossack Fonseca (“Panama Papers”). We match these data to population-wide wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. We find that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth, a phenomenon that random audits fail to capture. On average about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to about 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution, a group that includes households with more than $40 million in net wealth. A simple model of the supply of tax evasion services can explain why evasion rises steeply with wealth. Taking tax evasion into account increases the rise in inequality seen in tax data since the 1970s markedly, highlighting the need to move beyond tax data to capture income and wealth at the top, even in countries where tax compliance is generally high. We also find that after reducing tax evasion—by using tax amnesties—tax evaders do not legally avoid taxes more. This result suggests that fighting tax evasion can be an effective way to collect more tax revenue from the ultra-wealthy.

Figure 1

America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S.: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-011-9346-x
This study empirically investigates the extent of noncompliance with the tax code and examines the determinants of federal income tax evasion in the U.S. Employing a refined version of Feige’s (Staff Papers, International Monetary Fund 33(4):768–881, 1986, 1989) General Currency Ratio (GCR) model to estimate a time series of unreported income as our measure of tax evasion, we find that 18–23% of total reportable income may not properly be reported to the IRS. This gives rise to a 2009 “tax gap” in the range of $390–$540 billion. As regards the determinants of tax noncompliance, we find that federal income tax evasion is an increasing function of the average effective federal income tax rate, the unemployment rate, the nominal interest rate, and per capita real GDP, and a decreasing function of the IRS audit rate. Despite important refinements of the traditional currency ratio approach for estimating the aggregate size and growth of unreported economies, we conclude that the sensitivity of the results to different benchmarks, imperfect data sources and alternative specifying assumptions precludes obtaining results of sufficient accuracy and reliability to serve as effective policy guides.
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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
Can Europe Run Greece? Lessons from U.S. Fiscal Receiverships in Latin America, 1904-31 by Noel Maurer, Leticia Arroyo Abad :: SSRN
In 2012 and again in 2015, the German government proposed sending German administrators to manage Greece’s tax and privatization authorities. The idea was that shared governance would reduce corruption and root out inefficient practices. (In 2017 the Boston Globe proposed a similar arrangement for Haiti.) We test a version of shared governance using eight U.S. interventions between 1904 and 1931, under which American officials took over management of Latin American fiscal institutions. We develop a stylized model in which better monitoring by incorruptible managers does not lead to higher government revenues. Using a new panel of data on fiscal revenues and the volume and terms of trade, we find that revenue fell under receiverships. Our results hold under instrumental variables estimation and with counterfactual specifications using synthetic controls.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Here Be Sermons | Melting Asphalt
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge: https://www.lesserwrong.com/posts/9QxnfMYccz9QRgZ5z/the-costly-coordination-mechanism-of-common-knowledge
- Dictatorships all through history have attempted to suppress freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Why is this? Are they just very sensitive? On the other side, the leaders of the Enlightenment fought for freedom of speech, and would not budge an inch against this principle.
- When two people are on a date and want to sleep with each other, the conversation will often move towards but never explicitly discuss having sex. The two may discuss going back to the place of one of theirs, with a different explicit reason discussed (e.g. "to have a drink"), even if both want to have sex.
- Throughout history, communities have had religious rituals that look very similar. Everyone in the village has to join in. There are repetitive songs, repetitive lectures on the same holy books, chanting together. Why, of all the possible community events (e.g. dinner, parties, etc) is this the most common type?
What these three things have in common, is common knowledge - or at least, the attempt to create it.


Common knowledge is often much easier to build in small groups - in the example about getting off the bus, the two need only to look at each other, share a nod, and common knowledge is achieved. Building common knowledge between hundreds or thousands of people is significantly harder, and the fact that religion has such a significant ability to do so is why it has historically had so much connection to politics.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
A simple minded approach – spottedtoad
The Affordable Care Act was a famously complicated bill, but at a very simple level, its intent and effect were to drive more economic activity into the health care sector. Young people and the near poor, in particular, would get more treatment, because the bill would use carrots (the subsidies and Medicaid expansion) and sticks (the mandate) to get them insurance. In fiscal terms, the bill raised taxes on the rich to pay for the subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

So at a basic level, the question for everyone about the bill was (and is), was American economic activity in 2010 insufficiently focused on health care? Not whether any individual deserved more care, but whether in aggregate we were spending enough.

If you read what Peter Orszag or other wonks in the Administration were saying at the time, the intent of the bill was to bend the cost curve and reduce total expenditure by limiting what Medicare reimbursed, using various pilot programs to find out what kinds of treatments were ineffective, get some death panels up and running, and so on.

But that’s bullshit. You made more money available, so more money was going to get spent.

The death panels were real, of course, but they were mostly for young people instead of the old, as it turned out.
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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
The Government is the Largest Source of University Funding | Free By 50
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july 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
the mass defunding of higher education that’s yet to come – the ANOVA
Meanwhile, in my very large network of professional academics, almost no one recognizes any threat at all. Many, I can say with great confidence, would reply to the poll above with glee. They would tell you that they don’t want the support of Republicans. There’s little attempt to grapple with the simple, pragmatic realities of political power and how it threatens vulnerable institutions whose funding is in doubt. That’s because there is no professional or social incentive in the academy to think strategically or to understand that there is a world beyond campus. Instead, all of the incentives point towards constantly affirming one’s position in the moral aristocracy that the academy has imagined itself as. The less one spends on concerns about how the university and its subsidiary departments function in our broader society, the greater one’s performed fealty to the presumed righteousness of the communal values. I cannot imagine a professional culture less equipped to deal with a crisis than that of academics in the humanities and social sciences and the current threats of today. The Iron Law of Institutions defines the modern university, and what moves someone up the professional ranks within a given field is precisely the type of studied indifference to any concerns that originate outside of the campus walls.


TBH, if people like Ben Shapiro need $600k security details, universities are on borrowed time. There will be a push to defund

It's interesting that this bill was passed at Wisconsin.
I'm not sure how familiar you guys are with what's been going on there, but the University system in Wisconsin has been the site of some serious, really playing-for-keeps, both-sides-engaged-and-firing-on-all-cylinders culture war the last 8 years. Anyone interested in Freddie de Boer's claims about the significant threat Universities face from plummeting support from conservatives should probably be familiar with Wisconsin, as it's been a real beachhead.

Republicans Stuff Education Bill With Conservative Social Agenda: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/us/first-amendment-education-bill.html
Religious colleges would be able to bar openly same-sex relationships without fear of repercussions.
Religious student groups could block people who do not share their faith from becoming members.
Controversial speakers would have more leverage when they want to appear at colleges.


lost in "left v. right free speech" debate is that right="don't agree with BLM"; left: "white men deserve to die" @jttiehen @iamcuriousblue
the left needs free speech protections not just bc it "has less power", contra FDB and others, but because it says far more egregious shit
fact is, it's a "microaggression" to say america's a land of opportunity, scholarly&woke to say white males are fragile idiots, deserve pain

On Tommy Curry: https://necpluribusimpar.net/on-tommy-curry/
A few days ago, Rod Dreher wrote a piece in The American Conservative about a 4 year old interview of Tommy Curry, a professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University. (I would like to add that, although I’m going to criticize Dreher’s article, I think The American Conservative is actually a pretty good publication. In particular, on foreign policy, it’s one of the few publications in the US where sanity has not totally disappeared.) In that article, among other things, Dreher quotes Curry as saying that “in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people might have to die”.


With the context, it’s clear that, in the statement quoted by Dreher, Curry wasn’t necessarily expressing his own view, but lamenting what he takes to be the erasure of the fact that, throughout American history, many black leaders have taken seriously the possibility of resorting to violence in order to protect themselves. (I actually think he is right about that, but that’s a pretty common phenomenon. Once a political/cultural figure becomes coopted by the establishment, he is turned into a consensual figure, even though he used to be quite controversial. This happened to Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but also to Charles De Gaulle and Winston Churchill, so despite what Curry seems to think I doubt it has much to do with race.)


Although he deserves censure for misrepresenting Curry’s interview, there is one thing Dreher says which strikes me as correct. Indeed, even if you don’t misrepresent what Curry said, it’s clear that any white person saying even half of it would immediately become the object of universal vilification and be cast out of polite society. Indeed, it’s striking how bigoted and, let’s say it, racist and/or sexist language has become on the left, which is apparently okay as long as no minority is targeted.

Texas College Op-Ed Calls For Ethnic Cleansing: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/texas-college-op-ed-calls-for-ethnic-cleansing/

Opposing Liberal Academia Doesn't Make One 'Anti-Intellectual': http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/444031/opposing-liberal-academia-doesnt-make-one-anti-intellectual
David French on David Gelernter
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july 2017 by nhaliday
The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top 20 Percent Perpetuates Inequality | Boston Review
this is ominous
Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its Own Good: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/democratic-party-rich-thomas-edsall.html
Saving the American Dream: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/saving-american-dream/
It’s not just about the people at the top
- Amy Wax

ow can we arrange things so that more people with different levels of affluence can prosper and live meaningful lives? How can we make the advantages that the rich now “hoard” more widely available, thus reducing their incentive to separate themselves? Although these goals are elusive and difficult for any society to attain, ours can probably do better. But the changes required would be far bolder than the tepid ones Reeves proposes, which do little to disrupt current “structures of privilege.” And more dramatic reforms might also advance the causes he holds dear, including enhancing mobility and reducing inequality.
So here goes my laundry list.

Let’s start with Reeves’s proposal to ban legacy admissions. Not only would this increase fairness, but it would discourage private contributions. This would, in turn, promote the worthy goal of defunding the Ivies and other selective universities, which have become counterproductive sites of snobbery, dogma, and progressive indoctrination. Save for the kind of scientific research that benefits everyone, they don’t need any more money and could do with much less.

But we shouldn’t stop there. As suggested by the late Justice Antonin Scalia during oral argument in the Grutter affirmative-action case, selective admissions should simply be abolished and students admitted by lottery, except for math and hard sciences, for which a simple test can determine entrance. The steep pyramid of colleges, in which the affluent crowd monopolizes prestigious institutions, will be immediately flattened, and the need for affirmative action would disappear. In this respect, our system would simply mimic those in northern European countries like Holland and Germany, where enrolling in the university nearest to home is the usual practice and there is no clear elite pecking order. And since fewer than a fifth of colleges take less than half their applicants, with only a tiny group much more competitive, this change would have no effect on most institutions of higher learning.

While we’re at it, we should give up on the fetish of college for all by significantly reducing the number of students attending four-year academic programs to no more than 10 to 15 percent of high-school graduates. The government should dial back on student loans and grants to universities, except for scientific research.

That step, which would reduce the burden of educational debt, is not as drastic as it appears, since many students who start college end up dropping out and only 25 percent of high-school graduates manage to obtain a four-year degree. At the same time, we should step up the effort to recruit highly qualified low-income students to the most selective colleges across the country—something that Caroline Hoxby’s research tells us is not currently taking place. Finally, we should copy some of Western Europe’s most successful economies by tracking more students into job-related nonacademic programs, and by redirecting the private and public money that now goes to universities to creating and maintaining such programs.

More broadly, the amounts freed up by defunding elite colleges and private schools should be used to help average Americans. The Gates Foundation and other rich private philanthropies should stop chasing after educational schemes of dubious value and devote their billions to improving community colleges, supporting the people who attend them, and dramatically expanding vocational programs.

Although Reeves does mention vocational education, he does so only in passing. That option should receive renewed emphasis. And private donors should provide grants to thousands of students of modest means, including stipends for rent and living expenses, to enable them to do the summer internships that Reeves claims are now so important to getting ahead.
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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
How important was colonial trade for the rise of Europe? | Economic Growth in History
The latter view became the orthodoxy among economists and economic historians after Patrick O’Brien’s 1982 paper, which in one of many of Patrick’s celebrated phrases, claims that “”the periphery vs peripheral” for Europe. He concludes the paper by writing:

“[G]rowth, stagnation, and decay everywhere in Western Europe can be explained mainly by reference to endogenous forces. … for the economic growth of the core, the periphery was peripheral.”

This is the view that remarkable scholars such as N. Crafts, Deirdre McCloskey, or Joel Mokyr repeat today (though Crafts would argue cotton imports would have mattered in a late stage, and my reading of Mokyr is that he has softened his earlier view from the 1980s a little, specifically in the book The Enlightened Economy.) Even recently, Brad deLong has classifyied O’Brien’s 1982 position as “air tight”.

Among economists and economic historians more on the economics side, I would say that O’Brien’s paper was only one of two strong hits against the “Worlds-System” and related schools of thoughts of the 1970s, the other hit being Solow’s earlier conclusion that TFP growth (usually interpreted as technology, though there’s more to it than that) has accounted for economic growth a great deal more than capital accumulation, which is what Hobsbawm and Wallerstein, in their neo-Marxist framework, emphasize.

A friend tonight, on the third world and the first world, and our relationships to the past: "They don't forget, and we don't remember."
imo the European Intifada is being fueled by anti-Europeanism & widely taught ideas like this one discussed - Europe stole its riches

The British Empire was cruel, rapacious and racist. But contrary to what Shashi Tharoor writes in An Era Of Darkness, the fault for India’s miseries lies upon itself.

Indeed, the anti-Tharoor argument is arguably closer to the truth, because the British tended to use the landlord system in places where landlords were already in place, and at times when the British were relatively weak and couldn’t afford to upset tradition. Only after they became confident in their power did the British start to bypass the landlord class and tax the cultivators directly. King’s College London historian Jon Wilson (2016) writes in India Conquered, “Wherever it was implemented, raiyatwar began as a form of military rule.” Thus the system that Tharoor implicitly promotes, and which is associated with higher agricultural productivity today, arose from the very same colonialism that he blames for so many of India’s current woes. History does not always tell the parables that we wish to hear.


India’s share of the world economy was large in the eighteenth century for one simple reason: when the entire world was poor, India had a large share of the world’s population. India’s share fell because with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Europe and North America saw increases of income per capita to levels never before seen in all of human history. This unprecedented growth cannot be explained by Britain’s depredations against India. Britain was not importing steam engines from India.

The big story of the Great Divergence is not that India got poorer, but that other countries got much richer. Even at the peak of Mughal wealth in 1600, the best estimates of economic historians suggest that GDP per capita was 61% higher in Great Britain. By 1750–before the battle of Plassey and the British takeover–GDP per capita in Great Britain was more than twice what it was in India (Broadberry, Custodis, and Gupta 2015). The Great Divergence has long roots.

Tharoor seems blinded by the glittering jewels of the Maharajas and the Mughals. He writes with evident satisfaction that when in 1615 the first British ambassador presented himself to the court of Emperor Jehangir in Agra, “the Englishman was a supplicant at the feet of the world’s mightiest and most opulent monarch.” True; but the Emperor’s opulence was produced on the backs of millions of poor subjects. Writing at the same time and place, the Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert (1626) contrasted the “great superfluity and absolute power” of the rich with “the utter subjection and poverty of the common people–poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can be depicted…only as the home of stark want and the dwelling-place of bitter woe.” Indian rulers were rich because the empire was large and inequality was extreme.

In pre-colonial India the rulers, both Mughal and Maratha, extracted _anywhere from one-third to one half of all gross agricultural output_ and most of what was extracted was spent on opulence and the armed forces, not on improving agricultural productivity (Raychaudhuri 1982).


The British were awful rulers but the history of India is a long story of awful rulers (just as it is for most countries). Indeed, by Maddison’s (2007) calculations _the British extracted less from the Indian economy than did the Mughal Dynasty_. The Mughals built their palaces in India while the British built most of their palaces in Britain, but that was little comfort to the Indian peasant who paid for both. The Kohinoor diamond that graces the cover of Inglorious Empire is a telling symbol. Yes, it was stolen by the British (who stole it from the Sikhs who stole it from the Afghanis who stole it from the Mughals who stole it from one of the kings of South India). But how many Indians would have been better off if this bauble had stayed in India? Perhaps one reason why more Indians didn’t take up arms against the British was that for most of them, British rule was a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

more for effect on colonies: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:4b0128372fe9

INDIA AND THE GREAT DIVERGENCE: AN ANGLO-INDIAN COMPARISON OF GDP PER CAPITA, 1600-1871: http://eh.net/eha/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Guptaetal.pdf
This paper provides estimates of Indian GDP constructed from the output side for the pre-1871 period, and combines them with population estimates to track changes in living standards. Indian per capita GDP declined steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before stabilising during the nineteenth century. As British living standards increased from the mid-seventeenth century, India fell increasingly behind. Whereas in 1600, Indian per capita GDP was over 60 per cent of the British level, by 1871 it had fallen to less than 15 per cent. As well as placing the origins of the Great Divergence firmly in the early modern period, the estimates suggest a relatively prosperous India at the height of the Mughal Empire, with living standards well above bare bones subsistence.

but some of the Asian wage data (especialy India) have laughably small samples (see Broadberry & Gupta)

How profitable was colonialism for various European powers?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/p1q1q/how_profitable_was_colonialism_for_various/

How did Britain benefit from colonising India? What did colonial powers gain except for a sense of power?: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Britain-benefit-from-colonising-India-What-did-colonial-powers-gain-except-for-a-sense-of-power
The EIC period was mostly profitable, though it had recurring problems with its finances. The initial voyages from Surat in 1600s were hugely successful and brought profits as high as 200%. However, the competition from the Dutch East India Company started to drive down prices, at least for spices. Investing in EIC wasn’t always a sure shot way to gains - British investors who contributed to the second East India joint stock of 1.6 million pounds between 1617 and 1632 ended up losing money.


An alternate view is that the revenues of EIC were very small compared to the GDP of Britain, and hardly made an impact to the overall economy. For instance, the EIC Revenue in 1800 was 7.8m pounds while the British GDP in the same period was 343m pounds, and hence EIC revenue was only 2% of the overall GDP. (I got these figures from an individual blog and haven’t verified them).


The British Crown period - The territory of British India Provinces had expanded greatly and therefore the tax revenues had grown in proportion. The efficient taxation system paid its own administrative expenses as well as the cost of the large British Indian Army. British salaries were lucrative - the Viceroy received £25,000 a year, and Governors £10,000 for instance besides the lavish amenities in the form of subsidized housing, utilities, rest houses, etc.


Indian eminent intellectual, Dadabhai Naoroji wrote how the British systematically ensured the draining of Indian economy of its wealth and his theory is famously known as ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory. In his book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of revenue to Britain that is not returned.

At the same time, a fair bit of money did go back into India itself to support further colonial infrastructure. Note the explosion of infrastructure (Railway lines, 100+ Cantonment towns, 60+ Hill stations, Courthouses, Universities, Colleges, Irrigation Canals, Imperial capital of New Delhi) from 1857 onward till 1930s. Of course, these infrastructure projects were not due to any altruistic motive of the British. They were intended to make their India empire more secure, comfortable, efficient, and to display their grandeur. Huge sums of money were spent in the 3 Delhi Durbars conducted in this period.

So how profitable was the British Crown period? Probably not much. Instead bureaucracy, prestige, grandeur, comfort reigned supreme for the 70,000 odd British people in India.


There was a realization in Britain that colonies were not particularly economically beneficial to the home economy. … [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Causes of the Great Depression - Wikipedia
Current mainstream theories may be broadly classified into two main points of view. There are also several heterodox explanations. Of the mainstream views, the first are the demand-driven theories, from Keynesian and institutional economists who argue that the depression was caused by a widespread loss of confidence that led to underconsumption. The demand-driven theories argue that the financial crisis following the 1929 crash led to a sudden and persistent reduction in consumption and investment spending.[1] Once panic and deflation set in, many people believed they could avoid further losses by keeping clear of the markets. Holding money therefore became profitable as prices dropped lower and a given amount of money bought ever more goods, exacerbating the drop in demand.

Second, there are the monetarists, who believe that the Great Depression started as an ordinary recession, but that significant policy mistakes by monetary authorities (especially the Federal Reserve) caused a shrinking of the money supply which greatly exacerbated the economic situation, causing a recession to descend into the Great Depression. Related to this explanation are those who point to debt deflation causing those who borrow to owe ever more in real terms.
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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
Columbia | West Hunter
I remember this all pretty well: I’d still welcome the chance to strangle the key NASA players. I remember how they forbade lower-level people at NASA to talk to the Air Force and ask for recon assets – how they peddled ass-covering bullshit about how nothing could possibly have been done. A lie.

One of the dogs that didn’t bark was the fact that NASA acted as if relevant DOD assets did not exist. For example, if you could have put a package into a matching low orbit with those consumables in shortest supply, say CO2 absorbers and/or cheeseburgers, there would would have been considerably more time available to assemble a rescue mission. For some forgotten reason the Air Force has hundreds of missiles (Minuteman-IIIs) that can be launched on a moment’s notice – it wouldn’t be that hard to replace a warhead with a consumables package. A moment’s thought tells you that some such capability is likely to exist – one intended to rapidly replaced destroyed recon sats, for example. Certainly worth considering, worth checking, before giving up on the crew. Just as the Air Force has recon assets that could have been most helpful in diagnosing the state of the ship – but NASA would rather die than expose itself to Air Force cooties. Not that the Air Force doesn’t have cooties, but NASA has quite a few of its own already.

If we ever had a real reason for manned space travel – I can imagine some – the first thing you’d need to do is kill everyone in the NASA manned space program. JPL you could keep.

usefulness of LEO:

Book Review: Whitey On the Moon: http://www.henrydampier.com/2015/02/book-review-whitey-moon/

Homicidal stat of the day: The US spends more in 1 year of providing Medicaid to hispanics than the entire inflation-adjusted cost of the Apollo program.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
What would count as an explanation of the size of China? - Marginal REVOLUTION
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may 2017 by nhaliday
China Overtakes US in Scientific Articles, Robots, Supercomputers - The Unz Review
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Archived: 10 Fact About K-12 Education Funding
3. States and localities are the primary sources of K-12 education funding and always have been.

Total U.S. Expenditures for Elementary and Secondary Education

In the 2004-05 school year, 83 cents out of every dollar spent on education is estimated to come from the state and local levels (45.6 percent from state funds and 37.1 percent from local governments). The federal government's share is 8.3 percent. The remaining 8.9 percent is from private sources, primarily for private schools. [ * * ] This division of support remains consistent with our nation's historic reliance on local control of schools.


4. The federal share of K-12 spending has risen very quickly, particularly in recent years.

In 1990-91, the federal share of total K-12 spending in the United States was just 5.7 percent. Since that time, it has risen by more than one-third and is now 8.3 percent of the total.


5. Total education funding has increased substantially in recent years at all levels of government, even when accounting for enrollment increases and inflation.

Total Expenditures per Pupil (for Fall Enrollment)

By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99. On a per-pupil basis and adjusted for inflation, public school funding increased: 24 percent from 1991-92 through 2001-02 (the last year for which such data are available); 19 percent from 1996-97 through 2001-02; and 10 percent from 1998-99 through 2001-02.

Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money's worth.


Public School Spending. There's a Chart for That!: https://www.cato.org/blog/public-school-spending-theres-chart

Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement?: http://www.heritage.org/education/report/does-spending-more-education-improve-academic-achievement
A: no
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Backwardness | West Hunter
Back around the time I was born, anthropologists sometimes talked about some cultures being more advanced than others. This was before they decided that all cultures are equal, except that some are more equal than others.


I’ve been trying to estimate the gap between Eurasian and Amerindian civilization. The Conquistadors were, in a sense, invaders from the future: but just how far in the future? What point in the history of the Middle East is most similar to the state of the Amerindian civilizations of 1500 AD ?

I would argue that the Amerindian civilizations were less advanced than the Akkadian Empire, circa 2300 BC. The Mayans had writing, but were latecomers in metallurgy. The Inca had tin and arsenical bronze, but didn’t have written records. The Akkadians had both – as well as draft animals and the wheel. You can maybe push the time as far back as 2600 BC, since Sumerian cuneiform was in pretty full swing by then. So the Amerindians were around four thousand years behind.

Excepting the use of iron, sub-Saharan Africa, excepting Ethiopia, was well behind the most advanced Amerindian civilizations circa 1492. I am right now resisting the temptation to get into a hammer-and-tongs discussion of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Blood River, etc. – and we would all be better off if I continued to do so.

The Battle of Blood River (Afrikaans: Slag van Bloedrivier; Zulu: iMpi yaseNcome) is the name given for the battle fought between _470 Voortrekkers_ ("Pioneers"), led by Andries Pretorius, and _an estimated 80,000 Zulu attackers_ on the bank of the Ncome River on 16 December 1838, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Casualties amounted to over 3,000 of king Dingane's soldiers dead, including two Zulu princes competing with Prince Mpande for the Zulu throne. _Three Pioneers commando members were lightly wounded_, including Pretorius himself.


In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. Adams's, we talked of a printed letter from the Reverend Herbert Croft, to a young gentleman who had been his pupil, in which he advised him to read to the end of whatever books he should begin to read. JOHNSON. 'This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through? These Voyages, (pointing to the three large volumes of Voyages to the South Sea, which were just come out) WHO will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of Savages is like another.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned Savages.' JOHNSON. 'Don't cant in defence of Savages.' BOSWELL. 'They have the art of navigation.' JOHNSON. 'A dog or a cat can swim.' BOSWELL. 'They carve very ingeniously.' JOHNSON. 'A cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.' I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi; so desisted.

Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/deja-vu-all-over-again-america-and-europe/
In terms of social organization and technology, it seems to me that Mesolithic Europeans (around 10,000 years ago) were like archaic Amerindians before agriculture. Many Amerindians on the west coast were still like that when Europeans arrived – foragers with bows and dugout canoes.

On the other hand, the farmers of Old Europe were in important ways a lot like English settlers: the pioneers planted wheat, raised pigs and cows and sheep, hunted deer, expanded and pushed aside the previous peoples, without much intermarriage. Sure, Anglo pioneers were literate, had guns and iron, were part of a state, all of which gave them a much bigger edge over the Amerindians than Old Europe ever had over the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and made the replacement about ten times faster – but in some ways it was similar. Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

On the gripping hand, the Indo-Europeans seem to have been something like the Plains Indians: sure, they raised cattle rather than living off abundant wild buffalo, but they too were transformed into troublemakers by the advent of the horse. Both still did a bit of farming. They were also alike in that neither of them really knew what they were doing: neither were the perfected product of thousands of years of horse nomadry. The Indo-Europeans were the first raiders on horseback, and the Plains Indians had only been at it for a century, without any opportunity to learn state-of-the-art tricks from Eurasian horse nomads.

The biggest difference is that the Indo-Europeans won, while the Plains Indians were corralled into crappy reservations.

Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/12/20/1708800115.full
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.

Fig. 2.

The General Social Complexity Factor Is A Thing: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/12/21/the-general-social-complexity-factor-is-a-thing/
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may 2017 by nhaliday
America’s Most Anti-Reform Institution? The Media - WSJ
As team Trump digs into taxing, spending and health-care reform, it’s learning a vital lesson of Washington. Once a government benefit is given, it can never be taken away. If young people have been overcharged by ObamaCare so middle-aged people can be undercharged, then the solution is to undercharge young people too. The taxpayer—usually visualized as a hedge fund manager—can always pay more.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
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