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Is it really corruption when the system is behaving as it is actually meant to be used? That is the question that occurred to me when reading John Cochrane's take on a good NYT piece (yea! actual journalism) on "An investigation by The Times . . . found that under the cloak of charity, executives at nonprofits have collected large salaries, spent their budgets on companies that they or their families controlled and installed relatives in high-paying jobs." The non-profit sector and charities in general are very much overrated.

In what is shaping up to be a future episode of Build for Tomorrow, Instagram is perhaps underrated and not the threat to mental health (especially for teenage girls) the popular narrative would suggest.

Along the same lines as above, Michael Huemer explains how the outrage machine is nothing new although perhaps now perfected. 

The Sixth Assessment report is out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Peter J. Wallison and Benjamin Zycher give a reasoned overview about what we really know about climate change.

One of the pressing questions concerning the on-going development of AI (especially AGI-Artificial General Intelligence) is if we should be optimistic or pessimistic in our outlook for it. I mean this in the sense of IF we get to AGI, will the outcome be a good or bad development for humanity. Ajeya Cotra writing at Cold Takes offers a somewhat pessimistic concern using what he calls a Saints, Sycophants, and Schemers framework. For an alternative viewpoint that is somewhat optimistic, see Eric Schmidt interviewed on The Tim Ferriss Show

Magnitude matters! even though at large scales it is easy to get lost in.


I strongly endorse Bryan Caplan's Open Letter to Every University President regarding teaching (I would suggest institutionalizing) paranoia.

Why were so many economists (among others) so silent about lockdowns? Jay Bhattacharya pointedly explores this topic.

The sometimes well-meaning as well as sometimes politically-motivated concern about inter-generational wealth comparisons often suffers from innumeracy. The truth picture does not match the common narrative as Jeremy Horpedahl points out in this post.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) is all the rage in investment management. Like many things, this can be explained by the forces of Bootleggers and Baptists. The Baptists in this case are those who have the best of intentions about making the world a better place including through investment decisions. The bootleggers are those in the financial industry who are more than willing to sell products and services to those with Baptist intentions despite how well those products and services might actually achieve the stated goals. The short version of why this can't work is provided here by John Cochrane. The long version of how this doesn't work is provided here by Aswath Damodaran.

The economics of climate risk are very poorly understood. Climate change is a very big potential risk in the far future. For this we should be concerned and discovering what actions, if any, we should be considering and possibly pursuing. Fortunately, it is not an imminent, existential, or immediate threat, and it is also very much not a threat to the financial system. John Cochrane has two insightful essays explaining both climate economics and how climate risk does not pose a threat to the financial system.

Read and consider these rules, truths, and beliefs from Morgan Housel. 

The decision to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated is not as straightforward as many presume. In particular not getting vaccinated is not obviously irrational or based on false beliefs as David Friedman explains

While on the topic of outcomes not dependent on irrationality, Pierre Lemieux elegantly demonstrates Condorcet's paradox, the paradox of voting, using the example of the U.S. pullout of Afghanistan--the electorate might rationally prefer both pullout and non-pullout.

In a great example of counter-conventional wisdom and unintended consequences, James Bovard details how red-light cameras actually cause injuries and deaths at traffic intersections.

What is the limit to economic growth? Holden Karnofsky argues about 2% annually for perhaps about 8,200 years, which he says means we indeed live in extraordinary times whereby growth hasn't just been remarkably higher than at any point up until very recently. It has been much higher than we can expect going forward illustrated further by these thought experiments and approximate calculations.

I'll let the title of Philippe Lemoine's excellent article do all the introduction here: "Why COVID-19 Is Here to Stay, and Why You Shouldn’t Worry About It".

A politically incorrect question (but certainly an important and legitimate one) is if understanding politics is beyond many people's capabilities. Jason Brennan considers the question and its implications

Richard Hanania's exploration on if COVID restrictions are the new TSA--a point I raised early on in the pandemic--is at the same time fantastic and sobering. 

Does X cause Y? Cold takes goes in depth to discover.

Morgan Housel's understanding of the highest forms of wealth is brilliant.

Anecdotes are dangerous for the risk of being misleading an unrepresentative. Anecdotes via the news media are materially worse as Bryan Caplan explains. Just one more reason to stop watching the news!

Price controls designed to create "affordable housing" are a very bad policy that probably are actually just public policy aimed at helping the young middle class who are destined for the upper class at the expense of the lower class (poor)--Michael Huemer explains

As a professional investment manager, I wrestle a lot with the naïve faith many have in dollar-cost averaging (DCA). Steve Landsburg does a great job here demonstrating how DCA actually increases an investor's risk. 

There is much confusion about extreme price differences between goods and services over time. For instance, is a $500 bottle of wine 10 times better than a $50 bottle of wine? 20 times better than a $25 bottle of wine? What would that even mean? It doesn't mean that at all. Aside from the fact that goods like wine can take on new properties like status value making the goods not in completely the same category, the proper framing is to say that a $500 bottle of wine is perceived as being $450 better than a $50 bottle of wine--a very different implication. Scott Sumner explains the confusion

There are many (too many) examples of politically powerful issues that are largely unimportant noise. Voter ID is indeed one of these as demonstrated straightforwardly by Michael Huemer

Walter Block argues well for a counter-conventional wisdom approach to libel laws--repealing them all. 

One of my pet peeves is the knee-jerk and hollow finance pejorative "bubble". I love this piece by Joakim Book who describes it as "finance's definition problem".

Another of my pet peeves is the common refrain when printing something/choosing not to print something someone says "killing a tree/saving a tree", etc. It is part of a larger narrative that doesn't understand economics--in fact it is often thinking on the level of a young child's understanding. Art Carden does a great job of explaining how resource use and recycling in its many forms should be understood.

It is hard for people to hold two thoughts in their heads at the same time. Harder still for them to allow for others to do so. Consider this as you read Arnold Kling's application of the moral dyad theory (feelers versus choosers) in regard to health care policy. 

It is high time to travel once again. Here is some good, straightforward travel advice from Michael Makowsky.

While we're in the advice column, here is some on email from Tim Harford.

Confused about why a tax on capital gains is double taxation? Scott Sumner offers a simplified example using coconuts to explain. 

There is a lot of unappreciated nuance in the concept of economic inequality. Ever the more so is the problem in actually identifying it as John Cochrane details in his analysis of David Splinter and Gerald Auten's Hoover Economic Policy Working Group seminar.

Speaking of nuance, Michael Huemer explores the subtle truths of police violence and global warming. He's hitting all the controversial issues of the day, so let's make it a hat trick with the gender pay gap.

Jason Crawford has a good deep dive on the failure of society to be able to embrace nuclear power as he reviews Jack Devanney's book Why Nuclear Power Has Been a Flop.

As with so many reactionary policies that at first could potentially be excused as prudent precaution in the face of ignorance and fear, the continued masking of children should have been quickly realized for the cost exceeding the benefits. Alas, the problems will be long felt as John Tierney explains

David Siegel has compiled in a very good piece what he sees as the true versus false problems for humanity and society as well as a view on solutions. I find myself in strong to moderate agreement with him perhaps 90% of the time. This is a ringing endorsement even though it is hard for the average observer to understand it as such. We need to empower more thinkers and thinking like David Siegel's.

Too many take it for granted that government should fund science. Terence Kealey gives a salient opposing point of view

Próspera, a charter city in actual development, is a promising economic and political hope for Honduras specifically and Latin America generally. Scott Alexander gives an extremely thorough review.

Does Common Core math suffer from the problem that one size, even a new, crazy convoluted size, does not fit all? The Resident Contrarian believes so.

Joakim Book offers some brief, good advice for journalists to help prevent them from committing innumeracy when reporting on the environment.

Michael Huemer argues convincingly that Daryl Davis, the "African American musician who has basically caused hundreds of KKK members to leave the Klan just by talking", is an American hero. Also, Huemer has a new book out, "Knowledge, Reality, and Value: A Mostly Common Sense Guide to Philosophy".

When you are asked for the case against lockdowns, you would be well served to point here.

The Resident Contrarian wrote a good primer on what it is like to be poor-ish.

Art Carden briefly details the many reasons forgiving student loans is not the great idea it is cracked up to be. 

Want the short-short version of economics? Here is a 4-minute course from Scott Sumner.

"Bioethics is to ethics as astrology is to astronomy." So explains Bryan Caplan as he contrasts the Tuskegee experiment with the COVID experience.

What should students learn asks Michael Huemer answering in 3 parts: 1, 2, & 3.

To help break down the basics of and various problems within Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), Scott Sumner offers this insightful explainer in two parts: 1 & 2.

The $15 minimum wage is at apparent issue again (I hold out hope this folly is just gesture politics). John Cochrane elucidates why this is a big problem--namely, we are not all the same. A very fortunate fact that adds tremendous value to the world but that causes problems when an extremely blunt rule like a high minimum wage is instituted.

Social norms are vital to a well-functioning society. That is why the Jan 6, 2020 storming of the Capitol was so bad writes Michael Huemer

Bryan Caplan's advice on being happy.

Say what you will about the awfulness of 2020, it was a great year for science and technology.

The Resident Contrarian has a few very thought-provoking metaphors for us to consider. 

For all those who doubt that lockdown policies are indeed causing the deadly economic problems and poor recovery, I offer this from Alan Reynolds and this from Phil Magness among so much more including the simple question: if they were no having an effect, what would be the need for the lockdown restraints and policies?

The FDA kills people--yet another tragic, recent example is the COVID vaccine. We would be better off without the FDA. 

Do you want a way to waste money and feel good about doing it? Then donate to a university so argues Michael Huemer. And keep in mind, as Steve Landsburg succinctly shows here, it is impossible to give away from your own excess. All you can do is force others to make the donation.

Every movement no matter how noble or insidious in intention has its own untruths and tyrannical side. CRT is no exception as Arnold Kling writes.

Don Boudreaux has an excellent short series (a master class if you will) on the Twelve Principles of International Trade. It is in one, two, three, and four parts.

This Steve Landsburg post on distributing the COVID vaccine is an evergreen reminder that you must use the price system if you want to get an efficient outcome. And it shows that you very much do want an efficient outcome.

Unfortunately there will always be a reason to (re)educate people about the problems with communism. Hopefully, we will always have great communicators like Art Carden to provide that education.

Steve Horwitz recently was a guest on the podcast on Words & Numbers explaining the widely misunderstood and misrepresented gender pay gap. Here is part 1 and part 2.

A wonderful example of second-order thinking (the economic-way of thinking) can be found in the recent COVID vaccine situation as shown by Steve Landsburg. 

One thing we can thank the Trump presidency for is giving us a natural experiment and real-life example of the value of free trade. The tariffs introduced during his "easy-to-win trade war" clearly show negative effects in both the product targeted (washing machines) and the associated complementary product (dryers). 

I recommend this short piece on the economics and future of movies including streaming and big-theater cinema experiences.

Is voting a civic duty or an immoral waste of time? Michael Huemer argues it is usually a minor vice and certainly not a virtue.

Jason Brennan argues that the recent stunt by the restaurant Nando's to show the value of democracy through an "UnDemocratic Meal" is stupid because democracy simply changes the determination of who is deciding the meal for you. It is not a choice. As I like to say, democracy is not a tool for decision making. It is a method to have a check on power.

Robin Hanson has a unique take (shocking, I know) on incentives and reasons to reduce abortion and encourage fertility.

Regarding the pandemic, there is another way: the Great Barrington Declaration. See too the FAQ.

Two important and widely held views have been discredited (the 90s NASDAQ and 00s housing "bubbles") as explained by Scott Sumner.

Steven Landsburg is rightly appalled by the "Stupid Way" to test vaccines that so-called ethicists Embodiments of Evil are recommending and himself recommends a very good "Sneaky Smarter Way".

Robin Hanson believes we are over-preventing COVID

No matter how much its competitors and various vested interest may want it to be, Google is not a monopoly.

If Bryan Caplan created a school, it would look like this.
Time for US Unilateral Trade Liberalization.

Does Russ Roberts deserve what he has? Parts I, II, & III.