Sunday, December 31, 2017

What does possible mean?

Bryan Caplan and Philip Tetlock agree that experts need to use more precise language when describing probabilities. For example, "serious probability" is a term that means different things to different people, but it's thrown into discussion about important things.

Bryan's son, Tristan, offers a chart to help resolve this problem:

Another attempt to solve the problem comes from analyzing poll data:

Maybe there's a little chance to start using this language in a few more of our papers. But probably not.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Is Cannibalism Healthy?

In case you were considering it, cannibalism is highly overrated.

A study published in Scientific Reports concludes that eating other people - not that nutritious.
Results show that humans have a comparable nutritional value to those faunal species that match our typical body weight, but significantly lower than a range of fauna often found in association with anthropogenically modified hominin remains.
Author of the study stated,
“When you compare us to other animals, we’re not very nutritional at all,” says study author James Cole of the University of Brighton
This means,
... motivations behind hominin anthropophagy may not have been purely nutritionally motivated. It is proposed here that the comparatively low nutritional value of hominin cannibalism episodes support more socially or culturally driven narratives in the interpretation of Palaeolithic cannibalism.
Early cannibalism wasn't a health thing, it was a social/cultural practice.

How primitive, cavemen choosing their diets based on weird cultural superstitions. Not like us and our science verified nutrition based diets like the Atkins diet, The Zone Diet, Ketogenic Diet, Vegan Diet, South Beach Diet, Raw Food Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Dukan Diet, Subway Diet, Alkaline Diet, Montignac DietHay DietBlood Type Diet (and we're getting really weird now), Tapeworm Diet, and my personal favorite, the Kangatarian Diet, which involved the consumption of what I assume is a whole lot of Kangaroos.

I'm confident some of these diets are great. But take note: when you restrict your diet in any way at all you will find eating a less pleasurable experience and on average you will lose weight.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Lots of Professional Personality Tests

A survey of psychological tests were prompted by SlateStar in a recent post. The following are links to the tests alongside my results.

The test points out that scores between 33 and 50 indicate significant autistic traits. "Significant" is a tricky word as it is used here. It could mean that within this range one is very autistic. Or it could mean within this range one is very likely autistic, even if it's a little. This confusion often comes up when statisticians use the term "statistically significant," which sound like it means the effects were big, but really just means the effects however small are likely.

Anyway, there's no surprise here. Just ask the people around me whether I might be on the spectrum. At least that question that plagued me from ages 5-25 is answered. That question, "what is wrong with me? Why am I so different?"

22% Masculine (low)
39% Feminine (average)

Again, I'm not surprised. I'm hardly a stereotypical male. I often make fun of myself for having narrowly distributed "man points" on only video games and... well I guess that's it.

The next test is very similar, and I got somewhat similar results.

Masculine 100
Feminine 104

I'll begin hormone therapy tomorrow I guess...

I notice a bit of a tension between how I performed on the autism spectrum test and the sex tests. Autism is generally a male pattern

Here is the last test I took. It's a version of the Meyer Briggs test, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the results.

The difference between my raw score and the score percentile seem confusing at first. So I retook the test with neutral answers to get a sense of where other people scored:

Factor I was labelled as Extroversion by the developers of the IPIP-BFFM. Factor I is sometimes given other names, such as Surgency or Positive Emotionality.
Individuals who score high on Factor I one are outgoing and social. Individuals who score low tend to be shut ins.
Factor II is labeled as Emotional Stability. Factor II is often referred to by other names, such as Neruoticism or Negative Emotionality (in these two cases interpretations are inverted, as Neruoticism and Negative Emotionality can be though of as the opposite of Emotional Stability).
Factor III is labeled as Agreeableness. A person high in agreeableness is friendly and optimistic. Low scorers are critical and aggressive.
Factor IV is labeled as Conscientiousness. Individuals who score high on this factor are careful and diligent. Low scorers are impulsive and disorganized
Factor V is labeled as Intellect/Imagination. This factor is also often called Openness to Experience.
People who score low tend to be traditional and conventional.

So it makes sense that I scored medium on intellect/imagination (also called openness to experience), but only higher than 23% of people, because the people taking the test are especially untraditional and unconventional.

The same can be said about agreeableness. A medium score in agreeableness is much lower than the average test taker. Again, this is an unusual pattern found in online tests where you get a lot of internet nerds and SlateStar rationalists taking the test.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

It takes 2 to Cartelize, and maybe more

Loblaw's, a Canadian retail grocery chain, recently confessed to cartelizing with other companies as a means to price gouge on the price of bread.

"both Metro and Sobeys have denied any wrongdoing," but it's hard to see how a cartel could even work without the involvement of 2 of the largest grocery chains. Loblaw's, Sobey's, Metro, Walmart, and Costco control 80% of the Market. So if Sobey's and Metro weren't involved then cartelizing with Joe's Bakery would be effectively the same as just raising the price of bread beyond the market equilibrium, which is completely legal, uncontroversial, and unprofitable.

If the cartel doesn't contain a significant market share, then price gouging doesn't work. So either someone at Loblaw's is very confused, or more realistically, one or more of these other large grocery chains are guilty as well.

The unfortunate part of this is that Loblaw's is getting the brunt of consumer criticism. But they're the ones that confessed and brought this whole thing to light. They're the ones giving away $25 gift cards to 3-6 million people costing them about $100 million.

Read the meme above. First of all, yes yes YES. Go give your money to hungry families. Or better yet, spend $25 less on your next grocery bill and donate what you would have spent to whatever charity ranks highest on Awesome. So now that you've done that, this meme said something that kind of bugged me.

Notice the meme says that Loblaw's stole from Canadians. Really? Stole? As in, theft?

Cartels do not steal by raising prices above the market equilibrium price. This goes against the normal definition of theft, taking something without consent of the owner. Every loaf of bread Loblaw's sold was consensual.

But if you really want to go down that track... have you ever heard the economic definition of a labor union? Cartelized labor. They function to push up the price of workers the same way Loblaw's pushed up the price of bread. I'm pretty uncomfortable with saying that labor unions are stealing from their employers, aren't you?

Some people like to mix the legality of something up with the morality. Like, "it's not morally theft since the government didn't make cartelized labor illegal, but it is morally theft because they did make cartelized bread illegal." To that I say, "so you're really saying that if someone wrote new legislation that reversed the situation you'd reverse your moral indictments?"


How much was bread pushed up by the cartel anyway?

I live in Canada and I never noticed Loblaw's price of bread being especially high, at least not compared to the price premium Loblaw's has for all their groceries. I'm a Wal-Mart shopper, and yeah the price of bread is cheaper Wal-Mart, but everything is cheaper at Wal-Mart. It's hard for me to believe that Wal-Mart would be mixed up with this, not because Walmart has excess integrity or something, but that Wal-Mart is an American company that wouldn't dare tarnish their brand by engaging in a Canada specific controversy.

Well, that and the simple observation that bread is super-cheap at Wal-Mart.

This line of thought should make it pretty easy to identify who was involved in the cartel. Who had inflated prices for bread? That wouldn't prove anyone's guilt, but that's an obvious place to weed out the innocent.

I also found this quote interesting,
According to Canada’s Competition Act, it is illegal to “prevent or unduly lessen competition or to unreasonably enhance the price of a product.
 Unduly? Unreasonably? I'm just hoping that these are words are stand-ins for the economic textbook definitions, rather than some dude guessing what seems reasonable based on his intuitive judgement. "Hmm, I don't know, $1.75 for a loaf of bread just doesn't seem fair".

I know that's not what we have, but this kind of language confirms many people's false idea that the reason prices aren't higher is because the government is preventing it from happening. And as stupid as that sounds, I meet people who actually believe this.

For me the most interesting part of all this is how they could get away with it? If there's a Cartel, wouldn't game theory predict that firms would find it profitable to defect and undersell the competition?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How to make Life an RPG

I've always said that I'd be more productive if life were an Role Playing Game where I earned experience and leveled up. As a chronic video game player, I find that really appealing.

Now someone has developed a LifeRPG app (the manual, the reddit). It is yet another instance of the internet proving that I've never had an original idea in my life. Not only has someone else had this idea, but someone crafted a well thought out application based on this idea. (other ideas include D***Starter and Yelp for People)

Of course, I've begun using it. In the future perhaps I will write an essay on my basic strategy for making it work. So far so good though. Check it out!

A hat tip goes out to my brother who brought the app to my attention. As a successful PhD in Physics working in Israel, I'm curious how much use he has for a productivity App. I always thought people like that were an everlasting well of conscientiousness and will power. But lately I've been thinking about System 2's ability to organize the environment of System 1 as a superior strategy to "trying harder next time", also known as the sheer will power strategy.

A feel that as an avid World of Warcraft Player and economist, David Friedman would find this app especially interesting.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Unbelievable on whether Jesus was a Failed Apocalyptic Prophet

Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, these signs indicate the end is near, and that this generation shall not pass before all of what he prophesied in the olivet discourse had happened.

So was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet? That's what Matthew Hartke and Andrew Perriman discuss on podcast Unbelievable.

They both agree that the preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse is superior to the futurist one, but for Matthke Harke it's not good enough.

Monday, December 25, 2017

How to See your Friend Naked

Let me suggest a naughty idea:

A lot of people would like to see some of their friends naked. A lot of people would post nude pictures online if the price is right. Therefore, consider the new site, D***Starter.

Find your friend, and anonymously donate to their DStarter project. When others donate to the same project, and the pot gets large enough, your friend can withdraw the cash by posting a nude picture publically online. It's like KickStarter, but instead of projects, you're funding nude pictures by particular people.

Social disgust is the biggest barrier to making this site work. But if you keep donors anonymous, social pressures shouldn't be enough to keep private donations from occurring.

The other side of the coin from social disgust toward funders is social disgust toward the funded; the people stripping for cash. But this just makes the price to strip need to be higher before they'll do it. I suppose many thousands of dollars would be required to pay for the embarrassment of posting nudes, and perhaps many more thousands to pay for the negative social judgement. But the question is, is there a price? I suspect for most people there is some price at which they would sell the revelation of their body.

You might call it selling your integrity, but your integrity was always for sale, the site just reveals the price.

May I also suggest that the site may reduce the prevalence of rape. Porn is a substitute for sexual crimes, and porn of someone you know is a closer substitute for a sexual crime toward that same person. After all, most rape cases occur by people the victim knows.

Regardless of the morality of the issue, on which I take no stand, it seems like a profitable business venture. If someone only has the gumption to do it.

Another somewhat related idea I had is the People rating App, Yelp for people. Though it seems others have already addressed the idea in the form of an actual low-rated Application and a fictional dystopian future. Unlike D***Starter, I think Yelp for People would probably be a very good idea for society, and the fictional dystopian future is ridiculous satire that shouldn't be taken seriously.

So between these two ideas, why don't they exist? Why aren't they popular? What hasn't the efficient market hypothesis brought them to life? One reason might be that the public has a moral distaste for both ideas. If you invent either you're going to get a serious knock on your social rating (the invisible social rating that Yelp for People would state in more clear terms). Most people care a lot about where they stand in the eyes of others, so in some sense it might be financially profitable but socially expensive product to create.

But all it takes is one person somewhere with strange values and an interesting idea to get all of us to rank each other out of five stars and post naked pictures publically.

Oh man, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Top Academic Papers of 2017

The top 100 most talked about papers of 2017 include:

-Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure
-Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression
-Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity

Friday, December 22, 2017

Nuance in Net Neutrality is Nowhere

The cultural ethos is all for Net Neutrality, and now that it looks like it's going to be abolished, many are caught up in the drama:

A response:
"So, I've seen this meme out there before and finally put in the effort to do a thorough debunking of it.
If you get your information from Reddit, you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s all cherry picked hyperbole.
So, off we go to the races.
“2005 - Madison River Communications was blocking VOIP services. The FCC put a stop to it.”
- This is because the ISP was both a holdover telephone (a Title II classification) provider and an ISP (a consequence of ISPs being regional monopolies, which the NN Title II classification exacerbates). In total, 200 customers were affected, Vonage filed suit with the FCC, and a settlement was reached. End of story, no NN rules necessary.
“2005 - Comcast was denying access to p2p services without notifying customers.”
- One can argue as to whether Comcast should have notified customers but 2005 was the height of p2p file sharing when media and music companies were on the backs of ISPs like horny monkeys to get them to stop people from “stealing” content. This was Comcast’s solution, perhaps ill guided, to the state created problem of IP. This is why you used to get emails from your ISP directly about complaints of pirating, because the IP holders kept looking at ISPs as facilitators and accomplices and threatened legal action if they didn’t do something to stop it. Luckily, with all the changes to media in the last few years, this practice has all but disappeared.
“2007-2009 AT&T was having Skype and other VOIPs blocked because they didn’t like there was competition for their cellphones.”
- This was a decision by Apple, not AT&T. The iPhone was just released in 2007 and you’ll notice there was not a version of Skype available on the Apple App Store for a long time. This was because Apple, not AT&T, was blocking it from being there and eventually allowed a Skype app there so long as it was wi-fi only (just like FaceTime would eventually be, more on that one in a bit).
“2011 - MetroPCS tried to block all streaming except youtube. (Edit: they actually sued the FCC over this)”
- MetroPCS offered plans that explicitly stated they would block all streaming, so as to offer customers a bare bones data plan at a cheap rate. They sued the FCC because just before Christmas in 2010, the FCC passed Net Neutrality rules for mobile carriers restricting traffic discrimination. The FCC declared MetroPCS’s plans to be in violation (even though customers were able to choose full data plans) and MetroPCS sued the FCC because the FCC left a hole for “reasonable network management” to justify traffic blocking which is what MetroPCS claimed it was doing.
Verizon filed a joint suit with MetroPCS for the same reason. The verdict is at the bottom of this comment.
“2011-2013 - AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon were blocking access to Google Wallet because it competed with their bullshit. Edit: this one happened literally months after the trio were busted collaborating with Google to block apps from the android marketplace”
- That’s called competition, get over it. This has nothing to do with Net Neutrality as it is about an APP, not about network traffic. To this day I don’t hear anybody bitching that Android Pay and Apple Pay are not available on the competing platform. I don’t hear anybody bitching about how Fox and CBS have exclusive NFL deals and how nobody else can air the NFL games without cable. These three companies were part of something called ISIS, which became known as Softcard (thanks to Middle East ISIS screwing up their name). Go figure…Softcard was shutdown March 31, 2015 and was replaced by Google Wallet (which became Android Pay) for all Android devices.
“2012 - Verizon was demanding google block tethering apps on android because it let owners avoid their $20 tethering fee. This was despite guaranteeing they wouldn’t do that as part of a winning bid on an airwaves auction. (Edit: they were fined $1.25 million over this)
- Correct, Verizon violated the terms of a contract they signed and they paid a fine for it. No Net Neutrality necessary (not to mention NN wouldn’t have stopped this since again this was a matter of manipulating the applications on the phone, not network traffic itself).
“2012 - AT&T tried to block access to FaceTime unless customers paid more money.”
- Not true in the slightest. Up until June of 2012, Apple had restricted, via the application itself, FaceTime to WiFi only calling. In June 2012, Apple updated FaceTime to be able to use the wireless data network. Just one year prior, January of 2011, AT&T had lost their exclusivity of the iPhone but as a result of having that exclusivity for so many years still had more than 80% of iPhone users on their network. Their concern was that a flood of FaceTime users on their network would have unforeseeable consequences on network behavior, so they placed initial restrictions on FaceTime use on the data network. Specifically those restrictions were that if you had a capped data plan, you could use FaceTime (with the expectation that as someone with a capped plan, you will be conservative in your use of FaceTime compared with other apps that use data) and if you had an unlimited plan, you were still restricted to using FaceTime over WiFi only.
Over the next 6 months, AT&T was making changes and adapting to the traffic flow of FaceTime and in less than a year had opened FaceTime up on the data network to all users of all plans without any FCC interference.
“2013 - Verizon literally stated that the only thing stopping them from favoring some content providers over other providers were the net neutrality rules in place.”
- This stems from the case of Verizon v FCC where Verizon sued the FCC stating that the existing rules at the time applied only to Title II carriers and Verizon did not fall under that category.
“Verizon argued that the FCC’s order violated the company’s First Amendment right to free speech, claiming the company has the right to block, slow or prioritize content for a fee as it chooses. In response to a question from the judges about favoring some websites over others, Helgi Walker, Verizon’s lawyer, responded, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these [FCC] rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.””
The question is, are they wrong? Why should anyone get to tell a service provider what they will provide? We are back to “bake the cake” arguments. Should a newspaper be forced to publish every story, every advertisement that someone solicits them to publish? Should a book publisher not have the option to say “yes” or “no” to books of specific content?
The courts ultimately ruled in Verizon's favor."
- Sean Harcourt

I don't know anything about Net Neutrality, but if I wanted to know I would first look for economists on a cost/benefit analysis, I would be suspicious of anyone who seems to be on a good vs. evil crusade, and survey for social pressures to be a part of a bandwagon. The pro net neutrality side may well be right, but they're hitting all the ideological tones of religious believers. It leaves my skeptic senses tingling.

For more smart things on Net Neutrality, also try this man's thread on Twitter

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Do Sports Build Teenager's Character?

Here is a paper showing sport's failure to prepare teenagers for adulthood.
We analyze these effects in the US separately for men and women using three different nationally representative longitudinal data sets that each link high school athletics participation with later-life outcomes. We do not find consistent evidence of individual benefits reported in many previous studies – once we have accounted for selection, high school athletes are no more likely to attend college, earn higher wages, or participate in the labor force. However, we do find that men (but not women) who participated in high school athletics are more likely to exercise regularly as adults. Nevertheless, athletes are no less likely to be obese.
Maybe my gym membership was a result of the sports I played in school. Unfortunately, it seems my character was not.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My Microsoft Refund Experience

Recently, my 3 year old son accidentally bought $200 worth of downloadable content for Xbox. I went to the Xbox support website where they hooked me up in chat with a customer service representative. Here is a verbatim account of the transaction:


Hi, thanks for visiting Xbox Support! I'm Christian V.
Hi, I hope you are doing good today.

I'm okay, thank you :)
My 3 year old son accidentally bought some DLC for Fortnite earlier today
I was wondering if you could undo the purchase

Pleasure to meet you here Eli, I'm sorry to hear about your concern, thanks for bringing this to us, no worries, you have me here, I will help you sort this out.

Thank you Christian V

You are most welcome Eli, let me just pull up your account here on our system for me to be able to properly help you.
May I have your gamertag please?


Just to clarify, this is where the purchase happened, is that correct?

That's correct

Thanks Eli, the system has sent a verification code to all the email adress and phone numbers attached to the account, please check one and provide the code here, thanks.

Sure just a sec
(Typed code)

Thanks Eli, pulling up the account now, may I also know what did your 3 yr old purchased?

Yup, just a sec
-Fortnite Deluxe to Super Deluxe upgrade
-Fortnite Standard Founders Pack
-Fortnite Deluxe Founders Pack

Oh, wow! I really want to help you here Eli, please bare with me here to check if we can refund this items, one moment please.
Thank you so much for patiently waiting Eli!
Good news!
I will be processing the refund.

Christian, you made me very happy
and my wife too

However and just to set your expectations, as per terms of use, all purchases here are final and non-refundable.
This issue should never happen to you again as everything here is recorded and this refund will be our 1 time deal, alright?
I would advice that you assign a passkey on your account to prevent this from happening again. thanks for understanding Eli.

100% I was just about to say that!
Thank you for your help

Christian then asked me to review the experience after I ended the chat, and I did.

Note that never once did I huff in as an angry consumer demanding that justice be done or else I'm never shopping here again. I was polite and there was nothing but helpfulness in response.

Click here to see my thoughts before I was refunded.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Will Microsoft Refund my Money?

I'm waiting to talk to a Microsoft agent to see if they'll refund the $200 my 3 year-old spent on X Box games. In the meantime I posted a Facebook poll to see if they think Microsoft will refund the amount.

I got some of the more politically active people voting in my poll. My guess is that if they're right they'll interpret it as vindication of their pro/anti- market outlook. Whereas if they're wrong is was just a fluke and proves nothing. I however, prefer to use statistics, not anecdotes, to influence my economic beliefs. I just want to see what people think.

One thing I expect is that X Box will make the profit maximizing choice. If they give a refund that means the $200 isn't worth the loss of my extra loyalty as a consumer and the negative PR my incident creates. My friends are sure to absorb my negative impressions of XBox if I don't get a refund.

And it's not like PR is necessarily about my complaining about today's experience or starting a boycott or something. It's about the feeling you get when you hear the word, "Microsoft". Compare that to some other companies, "Google" "Nintendo" "Disney". I'm skeptical of consumer's ability to make an impact through cognitive decisions because most of our decisions are made at an intuitive level.

The other option is that the profit maximizing choice is to refuse refund, or do a partial refund. This means Microsoft's worry about being ripped off trumps the negative impression they give by not refunding the money. Once you set a precedent of refunding money any time someone tells a story, you get a whole bunch of scammers trying to get a quick hundred bucks.

Every big company I've worked for (I've worked for three of them) basically had the policy of "just make it right." It doesn't matter, just fix it. It's hard for me to believe that other big companies have radically different policies. Under very specific circumstances you may have to tell a consumer, "no," But almost always the policy is "just say yes."

Why doesn't it always work like this? My experience is that workers on the ground have a hard time following through on the policy. They feel personally taken advantage of. Their fairness receptors are triggered by the situation and they fight against any refund or replacement. Or if they have to it's hard for them to do it kindly. There's always complaining after the customer leaves about what they got away with, even though it's not the worker's money or product.

I notice that this is about as big as any difference between rich people and poor people. Poor people do a fairness analysis and rich people do a cost-benefit analysis. You can tell two different stories about that. Maybe rich people are neglecting some important aspect of morality, or maybe they're just better at staying level-headed and not letting their knee-jerk emotions lead them to bad decisions.

My dad was always clued into the fact that the first person you talk to is not a perfect representative of that company's policy. He always explained that if the first person can't help you, ask someone else, especially if it's higher in the management chain.

I can't tell you how many times I had to bypass another employee's unhelpfulness which went against our employer's wishes.

I will post about my experience with Microsoft after I speak with one of their customer service people. Needless to say, I'm hoping for the best!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Anti-Profit Bias Paper

Whether it's rising gas prices or micro-transactions, consumers attribute bad outcomes to profit seeking. A new paper studies the anti-profit bias of the public, and how it toys with their outlook.
in the first study, participants rated Fortune 500 companies in terms of how profitable they thought they were and how much they thought they engaged in bad business practices, such as operating at the expense of others with no concern for society. There was a clear pattern: the more profitable participants thought a company was, the more they assumed that it engaged in more bad business practices. In fact expert assessments of the firms shows the opposite pattern.
In a way, this hardly needs to be studied. Want to know that profit is socially good? Pick up an economics textbook. Want to know that the public doesn't recognize this? Go outside. Talk to a person.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

SlateStar on You're Still Crying Wolf

You are still crying Wolf, one of my favorites from SlateStar, It's about the political left's failure to understand Trump, and instead perpetrate all kinds of misinformation about's Trump's "open" racism. Is it strategy? If it was it didn't work. Trump won. Personally, I'm put off from supporting Democrats because of this "strategy" of name calling. I suspect many others are too, and all this wolf crying is toxic to the Democrat's success. Slander backfires.

Or maybe a lot of people find it persuasive and the only thing that kept the Democrats from failing worse is this Trump-is-Racist crusade. It's hard to know how many people watch their liberal friends trash trump on Facebook, and think it's stupid but are too polite to say anything,nd then on election day they quietly cast their vote for Trump, or vote for a third party, or don't vote at all, because they were so put off by the liberal propaganda.

It's not like there aren't plenty of good reasons to trash trump. SlateStar writes,
I think Trump’s election is a disaster. He has no plan, he’s dangerously trigger-happy, and his unilateralism threatens aid to developing countries, one of the most effective ways we currently help other people.
I would add that Trump tends to personalize international conflict, he's anti-libertarian in all the wrong ways, he doesn't listen to economists on international trade, and his nationalism separates us from the rest of the world.

And that's what Trump is really about; Nationalism. Of all the isms people accuse Trump of being; racism, sexism, homophobic... ism... it seems like Nationalism, or others might call it xenophobia, is the most likely to be true. I mean, it is true. Unlike the other isms, Trump is allowed to be openly nationalist because nobody thinks nationalism is a sin.

Well that's not quite true. The only people who think nationalism is wrong fell off the left side of the political spectrum a long time ago... oh, and me. Which puts me at odds with all the ra ra America people, and put Trump right in with them. I actually tend to think it's the most important reason he won, which is contrary to what seems like liberal's main hypothesis, "because he was racist."

Whenever I try to find evidence of Trump's racism, I always get this quote,
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. Their rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
 I looked at that quote at every angle trying to figure out how it's racist. The only thing I could come up with is that it mentions Mexico, and bad things like crime, and it's said by a Republican, therefore it must be racist! But then I read the words again... Nope, not racist at all.

Which is why I felt a special sort of bond with SlateStar when he wrote,
Note how totally non-racist this statement is. I’m serious. It’s anti-illegal-immigrant. But in terms of race, it’s saying Latinos (like every race) include both good and bad people, and the bad people are the ones coming over here. It suggests a picture of Mexicans as including some of the best people – but those generally aren’t the ones who are coming illegally.
What makes it not racist is not the, "and some are good people, I guess" part. It's the, "Mexico is not sending their best" part. He's taking a subset of Mexicans, that is Mexicans that are coming here, and talking about them. It only makes sense to do that if you don't associate Mexicans with all those bad things.

If I said, "those baristas at Joe's coffee shop don't know what they're doing", you wouldn't interpret that as saying that I hate baristas. In fact, you would assume that I think the typical barista does know what they're doing.

We all know that Trump received the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke, and did nothing about it. Shouldn't we take that to mean something?
Anybody can endorse anybody with or without their consent. Did you know that the head of the US Communist Party endorsed Hillary, and Hillary never (as far as I know) “renounced” their endorsement? Does that mean Hillary is a Communist? Did you know that a leader of a murderous black supremacist cult supported Donald Trump and Trump said that he “loved” him? Does that mean Trump is a black supremacist? The only time this weird “X endorsed Y, that means Y must support X” thing is brought out, is in favor of the media narrative painting Trump to be a racist.
Silence would have been good enough. You can't disavow every radical hate group. But Trump clearly separated himself in every possible way from the KKK, racism, and David Duke

I actually started to feel bad for Trump after watching the video.

Still not persuaded? Do you think Trump is still secretly racist and you've cracked his white supremacist code?
This gets back to my doubts about “dog whistles”. Dog whistling seems to be the theory that if you want to know what someone really believes, you have to throw away decades of consistent statements supporting the side of an issue that everyone else in the world supports, and instead pay attention only to one weird out-of-character non-statement which implies he supports a totally taboo position which is perhaps literally the most unpopular thing it is possible to think. 
And then you have to imagine some of the most brilliant rhetoricians and persuaders in the world are calculating that it’s worth risking exposure this taboo belief in order to win support from a tiny group with five-digit membership whose support nobody wants, by sending a secret message, which inevitably every single media outlet in the world instantly picks up on and makes the focus of all their coverage for the rest of the election.
Please read SlateStar's You're Still Crying Wolf for a whole lot more. It's one of his best.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Are Children Safer than they used to be?

Child mortality rates have fallen by nearly half since 1990, largely do to 15-19 year olds becoming much safer.

Am I the only one who notices that in 1990 the mortality rate of 15-19 year olds is nearly on percent.

1%! That's huge!

I notice 0-1 year olds do not make the list. I know that they're the most vulnerable age category, but I'd like to see if there's been a change since 1990. The fact that they omitted that category leads me to believe that they're at best just as safe as they used to be, at worst slightly more vulnerable?

The article makes the point that childhood vaccines are doing much of the good, homicide reductions are also important. So are the reduced number of instances of children being hit by a car. They also quote Bryan Caplan near the end of the article.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why hasn't evolution eliminated homosexuality?

The Homosexuality/Evolution Puzzle:
For evolutionary biologists interested in homosexuality there is one big puzzle: That it exists at all, although it should not exist according to the basic assumptions of this discipline. Only such genetic dispositions that increase the reproductive success and the genetic fitness of their carriers can succeed in the evolutionary struggle for existence. But the need to have sex with members of ones own sex is not a good recipe for childbearing.
In the past I attributed the homosexuality/evolution puzzle to gayness being a byproduct of heterosexual sex. Evolution gave us heterosexual sex for survival and it accidentally gave homosexual sex too. There are lots of byproducts of evolution that don't contribute to fitness, like perhaps music or language, though you can ask Steven Pinker and Noam Chomsky about that.

Now I see my mistake:
"Homosexuality is practically a form of sterilization", says psychologist Qazi Rahman from Queens College in London.

These figures represent a major challenge for any genetic theory, because a genetic trait that reduces the reproductive success would be mercilessly eliminated by natural selection, explains psychologist Edward M. Miller of the University of New Orleans.
Byproducts need to be survival neutral. They can't be antithetical to survival.

But does homosexuality have a genetic component at all?
A study by US-researchers J. Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard reached a clear conclusion: With identical twin brothers of homosexuals, the probability that they are gay too amounts to 52 percent, with fraternal twins it is 22, with adopted siblings 11 percent.

So can we estimate the proportion of genetic influence on homosexuality? Only to a degree. The estimates range from 31 to 74 percent heritability in men and 27-76 percent heritability in women...
Nevertheless, the geneticist Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute in 1993 made a splash with the message that he had identified a “gay gene” on the X-chromosome which is inherited from the mother. Of 40 pairs of homosexual brother, 33 had five common markers in a section of DNA called Xq28.
Like almost everything, there is at least a genetic component to homosexuality.

So what explains homosexuality's survival? One popular theory is that homosexual's may not reproduce, but they're especially good at promoting the survival of their relatives. But the problem with this is:
says psychologist Edward M. Miller: If the genetic merit of being gay would be the fitness increase in relatives, homosexuals would be better off by being completely asexual, and not to assume the risks and costs of the homosexual lifestyle.
But there's an alternative explanation:
A man who carries a small dose of gay genes in his genome would, according to the theory, improve his success in the heterosexual mating game. That “certain something” that heightens sex appeal probably consist exactly of those essentials which make homosexuals different from heterosexuals in the first place. According to his theory, the alleged "gay genes" equip men who carry the heterozygous disposition with an above-average degree of feminine traits such as sensitivity, gentleness and friendliness. Gay genes therefore form a natural antidote against "hypermasculine" genes that turn men into rough machos.
 In other words, a tad of gay increases attractiveness to women, and creates fewer infections and miscarriages, thereby increasing fitness. Enough to counteract the counter-fitness of a lot of gay that makes a full blown homosexual.

This fits with the popular trope of the woman who wishes her gay male friend were only straight.

Homosexuality is one of many pieces of evidence that seemingly flies in the face of evolution. But every time we discover one of these evidences, we find some complicated way of preserving evolutionary theory and making the evidence fit. So I have to ask, is there any evidence at all that would overturn our current views on evolution?

-A Tad of Gay holds Sway is an excellent read.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Millenial's Silly Political Views

New flash, Millennial's political Views don't make Sense.

In a related story, nobody's political views make sense. The public has long wanted lower government spending, but more spending on any specific program. They dislike government "welfare" but love government "charity". They dislike "military spending" but love "defense spending". They skeptical of "capitalism" but love "privatization". They want more or less regulation without regard for what those regulations say. When you ask them if government should spend more on health, education, or the elderly and they say yes, but they haven't the faintest clue how much the government already spends!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Think Twice about Communism

Statistics show that young Americans are indeed oblivious to communism’s harrowing past. According to a YouGov poll, only half of millennials believe that communism was a problem, and about a third believe that President George W. Bush killed more people than Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who killed 20 million. If you ask millennials how many people communism killed, 75 percent will undershoot.
-100 years 100 million lives

Monday, December 11, 2017

No such thing as the True Meaning of Christmas

I call my poem, "let me finish my coffee first before you start yelling at me about christmas"

It started with the pagans, but they're not around so who cares. Santa Claus is fiction with the Easter Bunny and Valentine's Bears. Christ is in Christmas, but which gospel told you? Family and generosity are great, but is their meaning Capital T True?

Rituals and symbols do not have true meanings. They mean only what we intend them to be. Now if you'll leave me alone, stop your fighting and whining, I think I'd like to finish my coffee.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What Americans believe about Global Warming

Only 70% of Americans think global warming is real. I wish it were more since, you know, global warming is real.

Only 58% of Americans think global warming is human caused. This is disappointing since, you know, global warming is human caused.


39% of Americans think Global warming is probably going to result in human extinction. Seems like that's against the expert consensus too. Hmm...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Zach Weinersmith on Emerging Technologies

Julia of Rationally Speaking and Zach talk about why some of these technologies aren't turning out or taking so long.
My bias is that at its most fundamental it's economics. I think when the economics of something gets irresistible or regulations go away or they get loosened, that's not always true you could argue that it didn't work out for nuclear...

There's this question you might ask, "why don't we have a colony on the moon?" for example. To an Astronomer this might be a tough question. To an economist its obvious, there's no reason to go to the moon.
Zach writes the Webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, it's excellent. He's a very smart guy, and it showed in the interview.

Friday, December 8, 2017

David Kyle Johnson on Christmas Myths

Is it immoral to teach your kids about Santa Clause?
Does Santa Claus teach kids to use their imagination?
Does finding out the truth about Santa Claus teach them to be skeptical of authority?
Does believing in Santa Claus promote Naivety?

In the interview, David and Julia treat these questions with several nurture-centric just-so stories about how every little thing will mold children different ways. As someone who is skeptical of the nurture assumption, I didn't like that part.

But I liked hearing more accurate accounts of how we got these Christmas traditions, like how Santa Claus has nothing to do with Saint Nicholas. The mention of Belsnickel reminded me of Dwight from The Office, who would always weird his co-workers out with his weird Christmas traditions.

I would have liked to hear about some of the other myths about Christmas, like that there's a war on Christmas, but I guess I'll have to buy the book for that!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Do Fewer Toys make Better Play?

With fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways.
From Infant Behavior and Development

Me and my wife are working on a rotating toy system. This week the kids get cars, next week blocks, etc. The idea was inspired by the research above, but fewer toys at a time will help manage the mess anyway.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Why would Women Lie about Al Franken?

It's an open call for anyone to accuse Al Franken of sexual harassment. If you want to garner some victim status, feel like you're a part of something important (#metoo), or if you just hate Al Franken or his politics, now is the time to do it. Everyone will believe you. Nobody will doubt you. Apply now and gain victim status for free!

Just kidding.

I don't know if Al Franken is innocent, but I see perverse incentives to accuse him. To some, the more women accuse him the guiltier he looks. But I'm very aware of the bandwagon effect. The more women accuse him the less likely it is that he has gotten away with it all these years.

Another reason to accuse him is because he actually did it. He was a celebrity so he thought he could get away with it. I don't think it's clear, unfortunately many others do.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SlateStar is against Dog Whistles

Both political sides think they've decoded the secret coded prejudices behind the masks and dog whistles of the other side.

SlateStar has an excellent post about this in his blog history:
In the same way, although dog whistles do exist, the dog whistle narrative has gone so far that it’s become detached from any meaningful referent. It went from people saying racist things, to people saying things that implied they were racist, to people saying the kind of things that sound like things that could imply they are racist even though nobody believes that they are actually implying that. Saying things that sound like dog whistles has itself become the crime worthy of condemnation, with little interest in whether they imply anything about the speaker or not. 
Against this narrative, I propose a different one – politicians’ beliefs and plans are best predicted by what they say their beliefs and plans are, or possibly what beliefs and plans they’ve supported in the past, or by anything other than treating their words as a secret code and trying to use them to infer that their real beliefs and plans are diametrically opposite the beliefs and plans they keep insisting that they hold and have practiced for their entire lives.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Should You Believe all Women?

Should we "believe all women" and take the burden of proof away from sexual crimes?

Even though there's incentive to lie because it makes you feel like you're a part of something (#metoo), gain status as a victim (Victimhood culture), and have the ability to destroy any man you might not like?
I believe that it’s condescending to think that women and their claims can’t stand up to interrogation and can’t handle skepticism. I believe that facts serve feminists far better than faith. That due process is better than mob rule.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What do Economists think of the Trump Tax Plan?

Top Economists have a consensus on the matter:

Note that there is a lot of uncertainty over whether the tax plan will "substantially" raise GDP. If you listen to Tyler Cowen, raising GDP might be so important that it crushes any tradeoffs that come along with it.

Clearly, even with a higher GDP the debt-to-GDP ratio will rise. Obviously because these lower taxes will not raise tax revenue.

The survey comes from the IGM Forum, which polls economists on a ton of issues. I think you should care since it seems pretty likely that if you disagree with all the experts, and don't even know what the experts believe, you might be irrational.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Is WalMart Good for Consumers?

Oh how WalMart is underrated:
In this paper we estimate consumer benefits from supercenter entry and expansion into markets for food. We estimate a discrete choice model for household shopping choice of supercenters and traditional outlets for food. We have panel data for households so we can follow their shopping patterns over time and allow for a fixed effect in their shopping behavior. Most households shop at both supercenters and traditional outlets during the period. Given a model of shopping behavior we estimate the compensating variation of household from the presence of supercenters. We find the benefits to be substantial. Thus, while we do not estimate the costs to workers who may receive lower wages and benefits, we find the effects of supercenter entry and expansion to be sufficiently large so that overall we find it to be extremely unlikely that the expansion of supercenters does not confer a significant overall benefit to consumers...
Wal-Mart offers many identical food items at an average price about 15%-25% lower than traditional supermarkets...
We estimate the average effect of the total the compensating variation to be 25% of food expenditure, a sizeable estimate...
Since we find that lower income households tend to shop more at these low priced outlets and their compensating variation is higher from supercenters than higher income households, a significant decrease in consumer surplus arises from zoning regulations and pressure group tactics that restrict the entry and expansion of supercenters into particular geographic markets.
From MIT's economics department of Agriculture

Friday, December 1, 2017

Pro-torture Sometimes

Is torture useful?

I actually think it probably is useful. People respond to incentives, if you give people an incentive through torture to give up information, they're more likely to give it up. Torture makes the cost of not talking high. This is not too complicated, when governments don't want people to do something they tax it, when they want someone to do something they subsidize it. Torture is a tax on keeping your mouth shut.

What if they still don't talk? Raise the tax; turn the torture up a notch.

If they still don't talk? Repeat

And if they still don't talk after you've maxed out the torture? Well I said that torture works, not that it always works. Give up this time.

What if they lie? Make the credible promise of more torture if they're found out to have lied about it.

That doesn't mean torture is just. It only means torture is useful. It could be that despite its usefulness we still shouldn't do it because it's wrong.

But commonsense morality says otherwise. When I ask people whether they will kill a baby to save the world, they always save the baby. People are mild deontologists. They wouldn't kill to save 2 lives, but they would to save 100. And you're telling me that they wouldn't torture a terrorist to save the world? To save a country? To save 100 innocent people?

On this issue, one side has taken the torture the never-ever torture position, but the other side hasn't taken the always torture position, that's absurd! The other side is a sometimes torture position. They simply believe that there are times when torture is permissible. We can debate when that may be the case, but that's variance within the pro-torture position.

I had a similar epiphany regarding the pro-life position. Pro-life believe that life begins at conception and not a moment later. Pro-choice captures all the differences outside of that.

When your side holds one sliver of the possible right answers, and the other side holds everything outside of that, your side isn't set up for success.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Opportunity Cost of Suicide

Anyone who has studies economics had learned reasons why third world sweatshops might not be bad for their workers. If the workers are choosing to work there it's probably better than their alternatives. This is very different from if they were forced to work there. If you have to force them to do it their alternatives must be better.

Eliminating the option they choose is no way to help them. Instead, keep the sweatshop option open and try to create better alternatives.

Some people want to argue over the semantics of choice. "Do they really have a choice if their only alternative is starving to death?" It doesn't really matter how you want to use the word choice. What happens when you take away their crummy third-world sweatshop job? Well in this scenario they starve to death.

But to a more interesting point:

The exact same argument for tolerating sweatshop labor can be used to tolerate suicide. When someone chooses to commit suicide, it's probably better than their alternatives. The solution then, is not to take away the option of suicide, but to create better alternatives.

Perhaps we should legalize suicide machines to make it as quick and painless as possible (or exciting if you prefer).

We should stop talking people down from jumping off cliffs or buildings. Be sad that suicide was the best option for them, but don't keep them from it.

I also wonder about how much of suicide is messaging. And how much of that messaging is diminished if we simply tolerate suicide instead of making it a big deal. We might end up with a lower suicide rate.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SlateStar on Public Food

SlateStar's most recent post is gold. He defends school vouchers by analogizing it to food stamps.

First, vouchers + taxes/subsidies let the rich and poor participate in the same system...
Second, vouchers + taxes/subsidies balance the government’s interest in preventing mis-alignment with poor people’s ability to control their own lives. If I love soda, and it’s the only good thing in my life right now, and I’ve thought long and hard about how unhealthy it is, but I’d rather improve my health some other way and stick with the soda – I can. I can buy soda (at slightly higher price) and compensate by cutting back on something else – maybe Twinkies. If I’m stuck going to the government cafeteria which only serves healthy foods, I’m out of luck.
Third, under vouchers + taxes/subsidies, everyone could eat in their own kitchen, with their own family, on their own time. Under a public option, rich people could eat in the privacy of their own home, but poor people would have to go to the centralized cafeteria.
SlateStar provides examples of government subsidizing the least healthy foods (High fructose corn syrup and pizza) and restrict production of the healthy ones. He also provides examples of government spreading misinformation about a healthy diet.
Given our existing government, it shouldn’t be let within a light-year of getting to determine anybody’s diet.
SlateStar then transitions into the public choice argument,
Because the whole “public food” argument hinges on a giant case of double standards. 
Presented with evidence that corporations do bad things, it concludes that the inherent logic of capitalism demands badness. 
Presented with evidence that governments do bad things, it concludes that if we just put some nice people in power, everything would go great.
Why is that? Could someone with the opposite bias propose that Coca-Cola Inc would be fine if it just got a socially responsible CEO? But that the inherent logic of government demands that people who focus on electoral demagoguery and bureaucratic empire-building will always outcompete the altruistic public servants?
The best defense of the private sector is an attack on government. David Friedman would be proud.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Pro-Choice is Broad Pro-Life is Narrow

I've had trouble defining my view on abortion. Am I pro-choice or pro-life? Or is it some funky middle ground?

I used to pick the middle ground option, but recently I realized that pro-lifers and pro-choicers define their positions the same way. Pro life means life starts at conception and not a moment later. Pro-choicers believe that life begins at any point after conception. I think both sides would mostly agree on those definitions.

This puts me under the umbrella of pro-choice. It's hard not to be since the pro-choice side has cast such a large tent. I think I have a lot of differences with what almost all pro-choice people believe, but that's a debate within the tent.

How do you make me pro-life? Well, cast a wider tend and stop staying with 100% certainty that life begins at conception and not a moment later. Or give me a reasonable explanation of why life does begin at conception, and I'll change my mind. As it stands, it seems to me that the only reason Evangelical Christians in particular are so enamoured with pro-life is because its a sacred belief they use to determine membership in the Evangelical Christian Ring. That kind of magic doesn't work on the anti-social like me, so I need another explanation.

The bigger lesson to all this is that when one side has taken one sliver of the possible answers, and the other side has taken everything outside of that, baseline assumption is that the other side is right.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Lee Jussim on Liberal Bias in Social Science

From Lee Jussim, a blogger at Psychology Today:
Citation counts are one very common measure of how “important” a scholarly publication is. When others cite one’s work they are usually acknowledging its importance and drawing on its ideas. More citations, more influence and importance.

Now consider the storybook image of the scientist as someone who strives for objectivity. If it were true, studies of comparable scientific quality will be similarly influential, even if they produce different outcomes, because they both have comparable claims to reveal something true. But this is not the case. Papers in my home discipline of social psychology that can be used to craft narratives advancing social justice are generally cited far more than papers of equal or even higher scientific quality that contest those narratives. Here are two concrete examples. 
When a paper finds stereotype bias, it gets nearly 1,000 citations but when a failed replication of that same study gets published, it gets 30.

When a paper reporting a single study finds evidence of bias against women in STEM it gets 600 citations; when another paper reporting five studies finds gender bias favoring women, it gets 70 citations.

See this paper for several other examples.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Meaning of Invalidating My Existence

"Invalidating my Existence," is a term I've been hearing a lot lately. It's hard to discern what it might mean exactly.

One way of understanding it is in the context of how it is actually used. I hear it used to mean, "invalidating the existence of a category I put myself in" (e.g. transgender). Taken that way, there's no reason to think invalidating someone's existence is a bad thing. I call myself a martian, and when someone says martians don't exist it's nothing personal. Whether the category I put myself in exists is up for debate. After all, I don't know through sheer introspection whether or not martians exist.

How about a real life example? Supposed I call themselves one of God's chosen people like many others. Now, if you claim atheism you must be invalidating my existence. If there is not God, then there are no chosen people, and I cannot be one. By being an atheist, you've destroyed the category of being I have placed myself in - thereby invalidating my existence.

That definition won't do.

Another way of interpreting the term is as, "making me feel like nothing." This is a deep problem we all face, where we tie our identity up with an idea and when someone challenges the idea if feels like they're attacking us. How do we get past this?

One way is for us to stop talking to each other. If you have a different worldview from me we can't talk about it because by doing so we're invalidating each other's existence. Which is unfortunate because there are a lot of ideas it might be useful to talk about. Like if you met a racist you can't really call him wrong because you'd be invalidating his existence.

I don't think the people who use the term care to understand it that way. They wish to understand it in a way that allows them to invalidate the existence of others but ban the invalidation of their own existence. Meaning, "you can't challenge the ideas I'm attached to, but I can challenge yours." This seems like a serious failure of empathy to me.

The other way of getting past this is by untying ideas and identities. Some might call this an aspect of maturity - the ability to talk coherently about an idea without getting personal about it. Alas, it seems like we've been moving backward in this regard.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Partially Examined Life Interviews Russ Roberts

The tables are turned on Russ Roberts as he is interviewed by Philosophy Podcast The Partially Examined Life. They talk about emergent order, the invisible hand, free trade, and how wealth isn't the only or most important thing in life.

Russ comes off very well. He speaks fluently and articulately. You can tell that over his many years hosting Econtalk, he has honed his ability to offer long insightful monologues. His speech is filled with analogies and examples.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trend Eady on Everything is Problematic

Here is an A+ article on escaping the grasp of the far illiberal left.
My politics still lean to the left, just not quite so far, and now I view economic and political systems with an engineer’s eye, rather than in the stark colours of moral outrage.
This line really sold me. Understanding needs to come first, then change. Filtering the world through a logical, descriptive mindset before setting off on an activist crusade is the difference between adolescence and maturity.

Also on the subject is Jonathan Haidt's talk on Two Incompatible Values at the American University.
There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism.
This part demonstrates what a non-rant this article is. She's systemizing the problem, breaking it down like an engineer. But also speaking with flourish and power. It's what happens when you get English major and humanities types combined with strong analytics. Not art vs. science. Art and science.
Anti-intellectualism is a pill I swallowed, but it got caught in my throat, and that would eventually save me. It comes in a few forms. Activists in these circles often express disdain for theory because they take theoretical issues to be idle sudoku puzzles far removed from the real issues on the ground. This is what led one friend of mine to say, in anger and disbelief, “People’s lives aren’t some theoretical issue!” That same person also declared allegiance to a large number of theories about people’s lives, which reveals something important...
Anti-intellectualism also comes out in full force on the anti-oppressive side of things. It manifests itself in the view that knowledge not just about what oppression, is like, but also knowledge about all the ethical questions pertaining to oppression is accessible only through personal experience. The answers to these ethical questions are treated as a matter of private revelation.
The church of left wing extremism parallels the church of right wing extremism. If we don't want Trump to get reelected, the liberal side need to strongly disassociate itself with these kinds of people. When voters think "liberal" a picture of angry, anti-intellectual social activist can't come to mind.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Corporate Tax Cuts Increase Investment

This from Tyler Cowen:
I think the currently circulating versions of the tax plan are unwise. They increase the deficit too much, don’t have the right kind of distributional consequences to prove stable, and they might eliminate the Obamacare mandate without a planned stabilizing replacement. Those and other more technical reasons are enough to bring at least parts of these proposed laws back to the drawing board.
But when the critics allege that corporate tax rate cuts won’t boost investment, that’s going against basic economics.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lots of Reasons Trump Won

Here are 24 possible reasons why Donald Trump won.

If I had to pick three they would be, 4, 12, and 14

If I had to add a few it would be,

25. Because of the electoral college (although I tend to discount how important it is compared to some others)

26. Because he struck a home run on Nationalism. Most of Trump's "racism" is nothing more than innocent nationalism (nationalism is a synonym with Xenophobia by the way)

27. Because the left got too associated with the far left social justice and Bernie Sanders types. Bernie wouldn't have won, he wouldn't have even come close. Bernie is political poison and most voters don't want anything to do with it.

Essentially, Trump is a branding machine. The brand voters were faced with Trump = America and Democrat = Bernie/Social Justice. Obama took over the liberal brand far better than Hillary did.

Steven Pinker's One School Course

Pinker states that if there was only one school course it should be,

Critical thinking course that would be informed about what we know cognitive illusions, in order to inoculate people against the kind of illusions and errors that our unaided mind left to its own devices would make.
That seems to be what LessWrong, Braindebugging, Rationally Speaking, Overcoming Bias, and the entire rationalist blogosphere are all about.

I hope my kids grow up to understand such things. I wonder though, how well can it can be taught to people who aren't predisposed to this kind of thinking? It seems like 99% of the population think what cognitive science brings to the table is kinda neat, but don't appreciate how vast the applications are and how serious this all is. You can't trust your brain!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hillary Clinton on $15 Minimum Wage

"Substantively, we have not supported $15 – you will get a fair number of liberal economists who will say it will lose jobs," is what Hillary Clinton's advisers said about minimum wage in e-mails.

I don't know exactly how much faith to put in Wikileaks, but given what I know about economics and Hillary Clinton's proximity to them, I find it likely she said this.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Don't Vote, have Lunch Instead

There are 2 major political parties, and you may have friends on the other side. If so, do yourself a favor and don't vote. Instead, grab your friend on the other side and have lunch. If you both vote, your votes will cancel each other out, so save yourselves some time and agree to do something fun instead.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bryan Caplan's 10 Parenting Tips

From Bryan Caplan's 10 Things I Learned My First 10 years of Parenting:
7. Mild discipline, mechanically enforced, deters bad behavior far more effectively than harsh discipline, arbitrarily enforced
I remember us moving a new shelf into our home. Our 2 year old almost immediately tried to pick it up and move it. Of course, he couldn't but he tried again. Eventually he gave up, which is unfortunate because it was funny watching this little guy try to lift a bookshelf 4 time taller than him.

He figured out something about the way the physical world works. When he tried X he always got result Y, and he adapted to that paradigm. I think that's how you have to parent. If you don't want him to do something, pair it with an undesirable consequence. And do it consistently, because if its not a very predictable result, the child will play the odds. Children are little gamblers.

9. Expressing anger at your children is counter-productive. It undermines your authority and gives wayward children hope of besting you.
I've known a lot of parents who treat their anger like it is parenting. Getting angry is like the punishment. Well I hate to tell you, it's really lousy punishment. The child doesn't care that you're mad. They can get mad too. It's not a trump card for them and it's not a trump card for you.

Instead of acting like getting mad is tactical, admit that its purely reactive. When I see parents get mad, and when I reflect on my getting mad, I see a white flag. You're no longer the adult, there are just two people crying at each other now. Instead, be the adult and use incentives to influence their behavior.

I recently had one parent share with me her parental insight, "I've found that incentives work well on kids." If you think about it, incentives are the only way of influencing anybody's behavior, ever!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lenore Skenazy Podcast on Hyper Protection

Here is a podcast with lenore Skenazy. She talks about child hyper protection - how we parent too scared and need to leave our children alone more.

The podcast is good, but you have to skip the first ten minutes of monologuing about unrelated issues.

The worst part is when the interviewer asks how we get bad parenting laws if parents are also voters. There is this assumption that Democracy scoops up some aggregate "will of the people" and turns it into policy. David Friedman calls it the middle school civics class view of Democracy. More sophisticated analysis of Democracy isn't nearly as pretty.

She's worth following on Twitter. I'll keep a link to her blog. The article she co-authored with Jonathan Haidt is awesome. And I might try the podcast again.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Crime a Day, Every Day, Forever

This guy posts a federal crime every day on Twitter. I checked a few and they're real.

A few examples

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Opposite of Trump

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bryan Caplan on Blame the Republicans

Bryan Caplan encourages us to blame the republicans. And while we're at it, blame other irresponsible people too.
Personally, I strongly favor blaming Republicans. I think 80% of the blame heaped on Republicans is justified. What mystifies me, however, is the view that Republicans are somehow uniquely blameworthy. If you can blame Republicans for lying about WMDs, why can't you blame alcoholics for lying to their families about their drinking? If you can blame Republican leaders for supporting bad policies because they don't feel like searching for another job, why can't you blame able-bodied people on disability because they don't feel like searching for another job?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

SlateStar on Does Age Bring Wisdom

From the most self-reflective man on the internet:
First I believe something is true, and say so. Then I realize it’s considered low-status and cringeworthy. Then I make a principled decision to avoid saying it – or say it only in a very careful way – in order to protect my reputation and ability to participate in society. Then when other people say it, I start looking down on them for being bad at public relations. Then I start looking down on them just for being low-status or cringeworthy. Finally the idea of “low-status” and “bad and wrong” have merged so fully in my mind that the idea seems terrible and ridiculous to me, and I only remember it’s true if I force myself to explicitly consider the question.
He makes reference to Chesterton's Fence, which Wiki describes as,
the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood.