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.