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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

3 Videos from the edge of the internet

I have three videos from the edge of the internet. Controversial themes. Beware.

First is Steven Pinker on Jews, Genes, and Intelligence

Jonathan Haidt interview on The Saad Truth

And Bryan Caplan on Anarchy

Friday, November 10, 2017

How Adults Talk about Guns

There was a shooting in a Baptist Texas church that killed 26 people. A 'Good guy with a gun' fired at the killer and chased him away into the next country.

Donald Trump says that tighter gun laws would have left "hundreds more dead."


Hundreds seems like a large number. How many shootings that aren't stop by an armed civilian reach hundreds? Not many. I am willing to concede that some extra people may have died in absence of the 'good guy with a gun'. And with tighter gun laws that good guy with a gun may just have been a 'good guy without a gun' and more people would have died.

So what?

I think we're at a terrible point in gun control discourse where every incident - every shooting, has to be proof that our side is 100% right and the other side is 100% wrong. In a country with 33,000 gun related deaths / year, and 300 million guns, every single instance of a gun death doesn't need to be fuel for your political belief.
The news is reporting another shooting in the U.S. Prepare ye facebook for the gun memes.
 I'm not one of those people who believe guns never save lives. They do. I'm just extremely skeptical that there are enough 'good guys with a gun' to counteract the bad guys with a gun.

I know I know, bad guys with a gun will get guns anyway. Sometimes. I am also of the belief that when you make something harder, more difficult, more expensive - people do it less. It's not like these random gun shootings are done by hardcore criminals who know the ins and outs of the black market. They're done by this guy,

The harder it is to get a gun, the longer it takes, and the more time you have to realize what you're doing is a bad idea. And it's not like all guns are the same either. In a competitive market for guns the price of better killing machines is pressured downward. In a black market - if you can even get access to the black market - it's far more expensive. You might just say screw it all and use a more convenient weapon instead. I've never heard of a school stabbing that took down hundreds of people.

Back to the 'good guys with guns' thing.

I don't think 'good guys with guns' are all that common. Even in States where gun ownership is very loose, is every attempted mass shooting being countered by a 'good guy with a gun'? We don't live in the wild west. We live in meeker times, and giving everyone a gun doesn't make them any less meek.

Surprisingly, the wild west had a very low homicide rate. All those movies were wrong. Yes that had a lot to do guns being everywhere, it also had a lot to do with the kind of people who lived there.

Step back. This is a more general problem. We have a way of thinking that the laws create the culture. I don't think so. I think the culture creates the laws.

That sounds very pro-government for a sort-of-libertarian like myself, but I don't think it is. For a lot of things we need a government to counter-act the culture. Some people like to use the nordic countries as examples of tight gun restrictions and low gun death rate. That's a very nice correlation, but instead of inferring causation I think we need to look at if the culture is creating both.

Do you really believe that if Sweden had U.S. gun laws their gun crime rate would reach U.S. levels? Or if the U.S. had Swedish gun laws their gun crime rate would reach Swedish levels?

We have to recognize that cultures start out different before we even bring government into the picture. Sweden could probably afford low gun restrictions because of their culture. And the U.S. could probably use tight gun restrictions because of their culture. Neither country gets their optimal policy because culture is in charge.

See, I'm not the kind of libertarian-ish person who believes government can't, it's that government doesn't.

Aren't I arguing that the U.S. is both a pro gun culture and an anti-gun culture? Well, yes. Compared to the wild west, we're anti-gun. Compared to Iceland, we're pro-gun. No problem here.

I'm going to give a few points to the conservative view on guns now. It's not going to be very emotionally appealing, but I think it's true.

Underlying every discussion (argument ( yelling match)) of gun control, is the assumption that all that matters is reducing the gun death rate. I for one don't believe that a single human life is worth all the joy of everyone else. If you don't think so too, then some amount of joy has to be worth a human life.

I stated earlier that there were 300 million guns in the U.S. and the vast majority of them never hurt anybody. And I don't think they all bought all those guns to counter-act all the other guns everyone else has. I think people like guns. They're shiny, it's fun to go out shooting them, and I think it's a form of fashion where people who own guns like to express themselves by showing them off.

I don't. I'm more likely to get a tattoo than a gun. But I respect other people's values. And when so many people spend so much money on so many guns, and those guns aren't hurting anybody, I have to believe they're getting value out of it.

So I guess mentally my math goes like this
Number of lives gun control law would save
-Value to consumers gun control would reduce / value of 1 human life
= (if positive) pass the gun control law (if negative) don't pass the gun control law
This has always been the way I've thought about it, though it's awkward to put it into an equation. I think it is objectively the right way to do the analysis. It should go without saying that when you don't do it this way you are hurting people. It's the way every numerate adult should do it. Instead of yelling on Facebook about how every instance of gun violence proves what you always knew in the first place.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on “Two Incompatible Values at American Universities.”

Listen to Jonathan Haidt on Two Incompatible Values at American Universities

In a victimhood culture there are only two ways to gain prestige; you have to emphasize your victimhood - to show all the cuts and bruises from all the things that have happened to you. And the more you have the more prestige you have. But if you are in the unfortunate situation of not having been victimized, all you can do to gain status is to really vociferously prosecute other people who victimize other people. 
His concluding remark is spot on:
I for one don't want anybody setting out to change complex institutions when their education has systematically disabled them from understanding those institutions.
In the Q & A section:
Asians tie their (social justice folks) in knots, because if America is so systemically racist - and the language of majority/minority... The Asians spectacular success puts the lie to that. And that's very uncomfortable.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Chewing on a Million Gumballs

He does a mathematical slight of hand just after the 2:00 mark. He goes from people making less than $2 a day - true poverty, to "how many people live in countries with average incomes lower than that of Mexico." He's taking the entire population of any country making less than Mexico's average, including a bunch of people making more than Mexico's average.

So Mexico's average income is about $11,000 / year. Chile's is about $8,000 /year. So now he's adding marbles for the entirety of the chilean population including lots of people making more than $11,000 /year and even some multi-millionaires.

The other thing I'll say about this Mexico thing is that Mexico is light years away from Ghana in terms of poverty. Lumping them together and calling them all poor seems wrong. When I think about poverty reduction via immigration I'm not thinking about people making $11,000 a year Mexicans, I'm thinking about $1/day Haitians.

He also says,
"2 million people a year would totally overwhelm our physical, natural, and social infrastructures" 
Our population is predicted to grow at about 1.6 million a year, So does that mean in two years our resources will be completely overwhelmed?

 Between 1900 and 2000 our population grew from 76 million to 282 million. There was no population disaster. There wasn't even a plan. So how did we absorb 206 million people and still grow their average incomes by 5 times and have an unemployment rate of only 4.4%?

The economy just does it naturally. There's always work to do so there's always opportunity for employment. When we have unemployment it isn't because we run out of jobs, it's more complicated than that. And when more people do more work, more gets done. The economy grows. Average prosperity increases. I like the way economist Bryan Caplan puts it:
The economy is not like a party where everyone splits a birthday cake; it is more like a potluck where everyone brings a dish
And this gets at the very last point I want to make (though I could make several more). Immigration is not charity. This idea that immigration costs us in order to make them better is inapropriate zero-sum thinking. Immigrants make us richer, so long as they're self-supporting and peaceful:
"When Danny DeVito enters a room, he reduces its occupants' average height. But he doesn't cause anyone to 'lose height.' Shortness isn't contagious, neither is low income. A janitor earns less than average, but his existence doesn't impoverish his fellow citizens."
 Immigration is probably the world's greatest anti-poverty program, and it costs less than nothing.

Monday, November 6, 2017

He's not me

That Eli I used to be. He's not really me.
I downloaded his memories, inherited his genes.
The cell composition decomposes and rearrange,
until the man underneath can't said to be the same.

And yet the man who consumes doesn't feel like a son
Not a cousin, or family or friend,
this continuity of consciousness turns the many into one

Saturday, November 4, 2017

NT Wright gives the Good News to Google

Here is NT Wright's talk at google. He challenges modern christians to think about the gospel in a way that might be challenging for popular Christianity, while appearing firmly imbedded in evangelical tone and thought.

The "Good News" is not how to get to heaven, that's advice. The Good News is something different...

Friday, November 3, 2017

The White Minstrel Show

This is a superbly written article recommended by Bryan Caplan on Twitter.

A taste:

White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump’s — vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You’ll recognize the style if you’ve ever been around it: It’s “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers — correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker — equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners. It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

SlateStar against Rat Park Studies

"Rat Park is a famous study in which lab rats were kept in a really nice habitat that satisfied their every need. Contrary to the usual results with lab animals, scientists couldn’t get these happier rats addicted to drugs. Researchers concluded that drug addiction, far from being the simple biological story everyone assumed it was, was really a just coping mechanism for intolerable social situations. Rats stuck in terrible cages get addicted to drugs, as do humans in terrible slums. But give them other opportunities for happiness, and the problem disappears."
Scott Alexander disagrees with the conclusion to the Rat Park study, giving several counter-examples in SlateStar fashion.
What about celebrities? They seem to have it all – wealth, power, fame, groupies. But they still get addicted to drugs at a high enough rate to produce six seasons of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew (key quote: “In May 2013, Pinsky announced that season six was the final season, as he was tired of the criticism leveled at him after celebrities he treated had relapsed into addiction and died”).

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Blog again soon

I will blog on a regular basis again shortly.

Have a nice day!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hate crimes Against Muslims

Hate crime against Muslims increased 60% last year

Hate crime against Muslims increased from 99 incidents to 159 incidents.

There are over 1,000,000 Muslims in Canada

So from .001 to .0016

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bryan Caplan's discrimination Syllabus

Bryan Caplan's labor economics and discrimination syllabus is a very clear summary of why the subject is more complicated than many feminists and lefties make it. Maybe academic feminists are familiar with thinking statistically about gender differences, but feminists on the ground too quickly infer discrimination from inequality.

"Women only make X cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job!" Yeah, okay, end of story then. Because in a world without discrimination women and men would make exactly the same amount in every occupation?

95% of every ideology is intellectually stupid, including feminism. Sometimes it seems like the 5% all talk to each other and have very sophisticated debates, but intellectual growth in both groups stays flat because everyone else isn't exposed to truly smart ideas, they're stuck at dumb emotional moral outrage.

And that's what I like about Bryan Caplan's syllabus. It's a tour of how to think statistically about labor markets and discrimination, because despite what popular culture says, statistical laws do not stop at people.

Key points I take away from the syllabus:
Statistical discrimination does not reduce mean group income. It just narrows the distribution. People who exceed their group stereotype's performance level are under-paid; people who fall short of their group stereotype's performance level are over-paid.
Very important.

I also take away the terminology of statistical vs preference based discrimination. This is a distinction everyone should make.

I also like his question: "If you really wanted to stop discrimination, which would make more sense to ban: IQ tests or face-to-face interviews?" Hmm, I wonder.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Solar Power Wasting Labor

I usually turn to Econlog for Bryan Caplan posts, but once in a while I like a post from the others.

So try this one: Solar Power: Lots of Jobs per KWH is bad, not good.
To start, despite a huge workforce of almost 400,000 solar workers (about 20 percent of electric power payrolls in 2016), that sector produced an insignificant share, less than 1 percent, of the electric power generated in the United States last year
Of course, the definition of economic progress is to create more with less. Employing a lot of people is easy, pay some to dig holes and others to fill them in. Ultimately it's a good thing to create just as much with fewer people. Those people are then able to go do other things, and now 2 things are getting done instead of 1!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Policy Debates Should Never Appear Once Sided

We live in an unfair universe. Like all primates, humans have strong negative reactions to perceived unfairness; thus we find this fact stressful. There are two popular methods of dealing with the resulting cognitive dissonance. First, one may change one's view of the facts—deny that the unfair events took place, or edit the history to make it appear fair. Second, one may change one's morality—deny that the events are unfair.

Policy debates should never appear one-aided

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Economists on Trump's Tax Plan

The tax reform plan proposed by President Trump this week would likely pay for itself through higher economic growth.
The amount of agreement is massive:

But what about the small percent of economists who said they agreed? I thought this was funny: under the section where the economists make comment it states, "panelist meant to strongly disagree"

There's a lot that economists agree on, including free trade and terminating agricultural subsidies. Economists agree, just probably not with you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Once Phones are out of the Picture

A photographer removed cell phones from pictures and it is supposed to show how addicted and anti-social phones are making us.

Why does it show that? I have no idea. If you take the object away from pictures of people using the object it looks weird. We could also try taking food away from people eating or books away from people reading.

So there is the world made up of atoms and the world made up of bits, and for some reason there is this myth that the world made up of bits isn't the "real world". Maybe that myth is what this photographical social commentary is about - the phone isn't real and so when you take them out of the picture you're looking at how things really are. The problem is the world of bits is contained in the world of atoms, so it's no less real than you or I.

Or maybe we're supposed to think that these people are just permanently consumed with their phones and ignoring the other, more direct social activities. That too is a myth. The pictures were chosen for their being in the midst of direct social activities. Most of the time that people are lying in bed together or with a bunch of friends, they're not on their phones. People are not permanently on their phones. Their daily lives are filled with persistent checks of their phone. If you go out to dinner with someone who spends the whole time on their phone, the normal thing to expect is that something really serious is going on at the other end of the phone.

What people do on their phones is usually social in nature, but we might compare that to books. Do we scold someone who is reading all the time? After all, reading is a genuinely anti-social activity. Nobody cares because books our culture has made out books to be holy and phones to be evil.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

what the Abortion Question is About

Usually the red tribe likes to frame the abortion question around when life begins. In a way that's one step better than their opponents. In a different way, it still misses the mark.

It's better than their blue tribe opponents because the blue team has been framing it as a women's rights issue for a while now, and that actually misses the crux of the issue. The red team does not reject women's rights any more than the blue team advocate baby murderer. Both teams believe that women have rights, both teams believe babies should not be murdered, and both teams believe that when life conflicts with choice, life wins. Nobody, including women, have the right to kill.

So the blue team aims at the woman, and the red team aims at the offspring, and it's the offspring that the abortion question is really about.

But is it about whether the offspring is alive? That's where the red tribe makes their jobs easier than it is. There is lots of life that isn't worthy of moral/legal protection. They need to show that it's the kind of life that is morally equivalent to the life of you or me. They need to show that it's a life with rights, or dignity, or whatever it is we have that makes it wrong to kill each other.

I'm not sure we even agree on a moral theory of why we shouldn't kill each other. So I'm skeptical that the red team has ever shown why that moral theory applies to protect this:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Liberals Tolerated Conservatives Banned

The overall impression is of a widespread norm, well-understood by both liberals and conservatives, that we have a category of space we call “neutral” and “depoliticized”. These sorts of spaces include institutions as diverse as colleges, newspapers, workplaces, and conferences. And within these spaces, overt liberalism is tolerated but overt conservativism is banned.

From Scott Alexander of SlateStarCodex.

It reminds me of when a liberal won the election where I live. When it was announced my whole workplace was having a store meeting. Almost everyone in the store cheered, and I remember feeling sorry for the few conservatives in the room.

It also seemed ironic to me that the team that teaches tolerance would have been completely intolerant if the scenario were flipped. Suppose the conservatives had cheered, how tolerant would the liberals have been?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do good things come to those who wait

Good things come to those who wait but also sometimes bad things even horrible things it's impossible to know, really just wait right here
-Don Hertzfeld's Twitter

The things people say.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Talk to Strangers

He cites child abduction stats at the end of the video. They seem much less scary when you consider how many people there are (denominator neglect!). They're also much much less scary when you stop looking at total child abductions, which is mostly just parents who violated custody laws, and look at actual stranger child abductions, which is spectacularly small.

To get an idea how small, consider this report from the Justice Department, which shows 797,500 total children reported missing in a one-year period, 203,900 were abducted by family members, and 58,200 were abducted by non-relatives. What about stranger danger? The report itself calls it an, "an extremely small portion of all missing children." The total number? 115 cases.

Does that mean the point of the video is wrong? Not really. It really is easy to abduct children. Parents have a hard time getting their children to do anything, much less avoid manipulation by people much older and smarter than them. The real lesson is that child training is not what keeps children safe. What keeps them safe is how rare the totally bizarre behavior of wanting someone else's child is. That, and the risk of paying the cost of getting caught.

Fortunately, those to mechanisms are pretty ingrained. So long as the officials do a reasonably well catching child abductors, and punishing them harshly, and so long children don't suddenly start pooping gold, the kind of child abductions that parent's fear will stay very rare.

So maybe we should stop teaching our children to be anti-social, and instead teach them to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Label this under:

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Best Interviews of Tyler Cowen

There are the best interviews of Tyler Cowen that stand out to me. He's the person who's mind I would most like to download:

Patrick Collison interviews Tyler on Conversations with Tyler

Ezra Klein interviews Tyler on The Ezra Klein Show

Tyler Cowen on or Stubborn Philosophical Attachments

You can pick any of Tyler Cowen's interviews on Econtalk. But they tend to be pretty specific. I prefer the interviews that come at him from a lot of different angles and ask him about pretty much everything.

Of course, Tyler also gives very good interviews.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Rich People's non-insight into Economics

Rich people do not know how the economy works any more than the lion knows how the animal kingdom works.

You can be very successful within a system without knowing anything about how the system as a whole works.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Consistent Vegetarianism and the Suffering of Wild Animals

Is life in the wild worse than life on the farm?

If so, and if life on the farm is worse than no life at all, then life in the wild must be worse than no life at all. And it would seem that reducing the number of wild animals should be top priority. From the paper in the Journal of Practical Ethics:
Some consequentialists may be vegetarian because of environmental concerns, and others for non-consequentialist reasons, but these are not my main focus here.
 Instead he focuses on ethical consequentialist vegetarians. But I wonder how many of them will retreat to environmental concerns or non-consequentialist reasons when their view is criticized?
Vegetarians reduce the demand for meat, so that farmers will breed fewer animals... I will argue that if vegetarians were to apply this principle consistently, the suffering of wild animals would dominate their concerns, and would plausibly lead them to support reducing the number of wild animals, for instance through habitat destruction or sterilisation.
 This puts vegetarians in a trap. If life on the farm is worse than not getting a life at all, then surely life in the wild is worse than no life at all, because the nature is horrible (evidence that nature is horrible is the next part, but I think it's obvious). On the other hand, if no life at all is worse than life on the farm, then reducing the demand for farmed animals just keeps them out of existence.
Nature is often romanticised as a well-balanced idyll, so this may seem counter-intuitive. But extreme forms of suffering like starvation, dehydration, or being eaten alive by a predator are much more common in wild animals than farm animals. Crocodiles and hyenas disembowel their prey before killing them (Tomasik 2009). In birds, diseases like avian salmonellosis produce excruciating symptoms in the final days of life, such as depression, shivering, loss of appetite, and just before death, blindness, incoordination, staggering, tremor and convulsions
Again, this shouldn't really need evidence. Nature is nothing like Bambi, it's like animal planet.

He quotes Richard Dawkins along the same lines:
During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease.
That was a very smart quote, especially since many vegetarians are Dawkins lovers.
Some may choose to treat this outlandish conclusion as a reductio against consequentialist ethical vegetarianism (either against the idea that farm animals matter morally or against the belief that we should prevent them from coming into existence).
I always note the difference between reductio-ad-absurdum and reductio-ad-a-conclusion-I-don't-like. If you really had enough evidence to say that farm animals are better off never born, and then new evidence comes along and points out that wild animals are even worse off than that, then you follow reason where it leads: start preventing wild animals from existing!

Or on the other hand you could admit that you never had enough evidence in the first place, and then introspect on why it seemed to appealing at first. Is it social desirability bias? Maybe because you thought that cause looked good on you?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Prison taken Seriously

Why Prison? An Economic Critique

Not for people with heavy status quo bias

It seems to me like chopping off limbs is a better system of justice.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Does the bible say to love yourself?

"And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and indulge our benevolent, affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety.
As to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbor, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbor is capable of loving us."
-Adam Smith

Churches I used to go to used to make this point. "Love each other as you love yourselves implies that you should love yourself too!"

But for as long as I can remember I've thought that the interpretation of the verse as, "as you SHOULD love yourselves" rather than, "as you CURRENTLY love yourselves" was reading personal views into the verse. Jesus is saying, "you are lovers of yourselves, now go love each other that much," which is to say nothing about how much you should love yourself.

When you read any new Testament author, it's hard to find anything that says you should love yourself. On the contrary, when being a lover of yourself is mentioned it's always treated like a BAD thing.

Of course, rationalizers will argue that these same words mean different things for no other reason than because they say so. 

So does the bible say to love yourself? Most certainly not. That doesn't make it wrong unless you're a bible fundamentalist, but I think citing verses like this to help forward your already established moral views is discourteous to original authors.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

"I gave them War so they would Smelt Iron"

" 'Hermes,' asked Prometheus, 'has it ever occurred to you that I was out, in the world, for countless aeons before you imprisoned me here? ...Zeus thought he was so clever, giving [the humans] a box full of evils, but I selected every one of those evils eons beforehand. You know what was in that box, Hermes? Things to made humanity stronger. I gave them famine so they would invent agriculture. I gave them disease so they would invent medicine. I gave them war so they would smelt iron. And I left them hope, so that even in their darkest moments they would pull through and keep dreaming. Dream of putting all of those evils back in the box they came from and closing it forever. And they will. Do you know how many sentient species in the multiverse developed an industrial base, liberal democracy, and human rights without killing themselves or collapsing into barbarism, Hermes? The number is one. One sentient species. Mine.' "

-Prometheus, in the very delightful short story here

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Tyler Cowen on a16z Podcast

Here is a great interview with Tyler Cowen on Technology, Mobility, and The American Dream.

I've bookmarked the podcast for it's quality. I was impressed by the interviewer's input of informed examples, and I thought their willingness to argue the other side rare.

Tyler mentioned the point of how much easier it is to measure income than wealth. Because income is in the form of paper (mostly), and wealth is not and wealth can be so important.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Will the Real Immigrant Deporter Please Stand Up?

Bryan Caplan on Presidents by their deportation numbers. Tyler Cowen calls it a revelation of sorts.
...the real Deporter in Chief was none other than fellow Democrat Bill Clinton. Adjusting for population, no one else even comes close.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Eggs in the Refrigerator

Why do we have to refrigerate our eggs in North America, but they don't in Europe? It has to do with whether those eggs are washed. In north America government requires eggs to be washed. In Europe government prohibits eggs from being washed. Here is the rationale from the FDA:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a regulation expected to prevent each year approximately 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis.
The regulation requires preventive measures during the production of eggs in poultry houses and requires subsequent refrigeration during storage and transportation.
Egg-associated illness caused by Salmonella is a serious public health problem. Infected individuals may suffer mild to severe gastrointestinal illness, short term or chronic arthritis, or even death. Implementing the preventive measures would reduce the number of Salmonella Enteritidis infections from eggs by nearly 60 percent.
Here we have the rationale from some European legislators:
In general, eggs should not be washed or cleaned because such practices can cause damage to the egg shell, which is an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties. However, some practices, such as the treatment of eggs with ultra-violet rays, should not be interpreted as constituting a cleaning process. Moreover, Class A eggs should not be washed because of the potential damage to the physical barriers, such as the cuticle, which can occur during or after washing. Such damage may favour trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.
This is from an intriguing article written by Jeffrey Tucker.

My first thought is that 30 deaths a year is not a large number. 79,000 cases of foodborne illness is a large number, but since only .04% of those people are dying I'm suspicious that the technical definition of foodborne illness matches the severity of what comes to mind when us layfolk hear it. When I hear foodborne illness I think of something fairly serious, but more often than not it may amount to nothing more than a tummyache.

As I read more about foodborne illness my suspicions become more and more validated. Consider this from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention:
48 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. At least 128,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food.
 Soooooo, out of 48 million foodborne illnesses, 47,872,000 never even bother to go to the hospital, and 47,997,000 go on to live another day.

That doesn't sound so bad.

My second thought after reading the article is that my fast thinking system (system 1) wants to say that the washing eggs prevent some problems, not washing eggs prevent some other problems, and it's all a big tradeoff.

But if you think about it, the North American way of doing things is far superior for public health. By washing the eggs they prevent Salmonella. But what about the European rationale that damaging the eggshell which is a barrier to bacteria? That's why they're refrigerated! I think Jeffrey Tucker overlooks this by calling the situation, "tradeoffs either way, like most things in life." Sure there are always tradeoffs, but the FDA found a way to have it both ways at least in the public health sense by mandating the washing of eggs, and then prescribing that eggs ought to be refrigerated afterward.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Social Security: A tax on the dead?

Lets start with this. Cut the world into people who live to 65 years and those who don't. Of these two groups, which is more deserving of our sympathy? Who deserves our care? The people who lived that long or the people who die young?

It seems to me that regardless of your quality of life, you're pretty much in the fortunate group if you lived to 65 or longer.

But here's the thing: we give people who live to 65 a subsidy. It's called Social Security. And who pays for it? The people who never live long enough to collect the check.

People think Social Security is a tax on the young to benefit the old. But it's really not, since at the end of the day they're the same people. But who really loses in this system? Not the young who live long lives, they get their money back eventually. But the young who live short lives get nothing. That sounds like a cruel system to me.

And it's the biggest system in the United States Budget.

Lets say it again: old people are fortunate. Whatever problems they may have, in the broad scope of things it's probably better than being dead. Helping them is like subsidizing the rich because it's hard managing all that money. So too with being old. All that extra time you get to live comes with health problems. Okay, but at the end of the day all that time is a wonderful thing!

Monday, February 20, 2017

History is written by the victors

One of the most unfortunate and widely-accepted ideas about historical thinking is that “history is written by the victors.” This talking point asserts that the truth of the past is not shaped by reasoned interpretive historical scholarship or a factual understanding of the past, but by the might of political and cultural leaders on the “winning” side of history who have the power to shape historical narratives through school textbooks, public iconography, movies, and a range of other mediums...
“History is written by the victors” is a lazy argument that is usually deployed in the absence of historical evidence to defend claims about the past.

The quote, "history is written by the victors" appears to be misattributed to Winston Churchill

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Was the Civil War about Slavery?

We're not fighting for slaves. Most of us never owned slaves and never expect to, it takes money to buy a slave and we're most of us poor but we won't lie down and let the North walk over us, about slaves or anything else.
-Confederate soldiers in John Brown' Body, a book length poem by Stephen Vincent Benét.

It should be noted that Stephen Vincent Benet wasn't speaking from personal experience. Even if he were, one person never really speaks for an entire group.

Still, the there are arguments here. Does it make sense for the South to care so much about slavery when so few owned slaves? I recall a dispute with someone who insisted that most of them fought because they hoped to one day own slaves. I don't find that believable. So many gave so much for such a little chance - seems dumb.

When I read the articles of secession it seems to me that the civil war was really about States Rights of which slavery was one important subset.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

One Kidney down, One to go.

Here's Dylan Matthews on the Science and Ethics of Kidney Donation.

Related: Economists generally range from accepting to uncertain of the proposition:

"A market that allows payment for human kidneys should be established on a trial basis to help extend the lives of patients with kidney disease."

I've looked into donating a kidney to a stranger. Fear or safety isn't the main obstacle, complication is.