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Matt Shapiro explores the widely spread myth of "Red Covid", the idea that Trump or Republican counties did meaningfully worse than their blue/Biden/Democratic counterparts.

Aella Girl makes an attempt at defining a woman. I think this is about as close to my view as I have found.

Scott Alexander tells a love story/philosophy allegory/logic narrative in this short post.

David Siegel tells about the great famine of the future (past) that won't (didn't) happen. Note: I really admire his thinking and find his reasoning strong in pushing back against climate change mania. I don't know enough to know if some of the criticisms that he makes (e.g., here) are as meaningful as they seem to be, but I do know enough to know he is making strong points regardless.

Keeping the myth theme of these recent posts, here is the Antiplanner discussing the myth of rail mobility. "These data show that passenger trains are not an important source of mobility in most developed and developing nations, where rail travel is heavily outweighed by highway travel and, in most countries, air travel."


There have been several link-worthy posts by Bryan Caplan writing at his new blog. Here is a sampling:
An issue close to my heart and my family is the future of education. David Siegel has some great ideas on this: don't "fix" it; blow it up and start over

Morgan Housel shares 17 aspects of how people think.

"Not so fast" on the rejection of Ivermectin says Charles Hooper and David Henderson, which includes a strong pushback against a post from ACX that I linked to below. This is great counter punching and a great example on how science isn't ever truly settled. Don't miss the comments related to the piece here. My takeaway is adjusting my estimate again and again and leaving a wide confidence interval (Bayesian reasoning with low conviction) as both the Cato piece as well as ACX make good points. 

Considering helping the poor and charity in general, instead of trying to figure out what we can do to make things better, wouldn't it be easier to figure out what we could stop doing to make things worse? That is the contention of Bryan Caplan.

Along the same line of reasoning as the above, Michael Munger argues that all housing is affordable housing--quit making it illegal to build if you want to help the less fortunate among others.

I've heard it said as if folk wisdom that viruses evolve to be less virulent. I have seen it challenged as well as being a myth. Matt Ridley attempts to settle the matter with a fuller explanation of what is being claimed and why.

"Nothing matters more for human flourishing than long-term economic growth." So argue John Cochrane and Jon Hartley in this piece that calls for supply. Shout it from the rooftops! The key to mass consumption is mass production, as Bryan Caplan would say.

The proper way to evaluate the cost and benefits of something is done through the framework of economics using complete social benefits and costs. A great example is found here where Larry White provides the analysis of Bitcoin.

Richard Hanania warns against prefacing arguments against involvement in foreign wars (Russia-Ukraine being the war du jour) with condemnation of the aggressor. 

Scott Alexander has a great discussion of heuristics that almost always work. After you digest that, I direct you to two somewhat counter pieces by Zvi Mowshowitz: Rock is Strong, and Paper is True.

John Cochrane brings multiple, frustrating examples to bear on how we are letting paperwork and bureaucracy prevent progress. And Ted Nordhaus delivers the follow-through punch writing in the WSJ--clean energy requires deregulation.

Why should we have/recognize property? So asks and answers Michael Huemer in this well argued piece. I think this (the idea Huemer is arguing against) is an example of an underappreciated problem whereby people make reasoning errors when desires substitute for sound thinking.

In his continuing series on progress and "the greats" of the past, Holden Karnofsky advises not to follow in their footsteps.

Veronique de Rugy battles against the looney theories put forth about inflation--repeated through history as these zombies won't die and reemerging recently in the Washington Post.

David Seigel has a very good, short primer on 21st Century Monetary Policy.

Touching on a theme I've contributed to, Holden Karnofsky discusses two versions of the objection to his future-proof ethics, which results in defining himself as a "moral quasi-realist".

I've linked before to Kevin Erdmann's work on housing in the great recession and housing affordability in general. He has compiled a handy post linking to his pieces on the former along with a summary of each. 

Giving things away for "free" by pricing them explicitly at or near zero is so bad that in many cases it would be better if that good or service never existed in the first place--so argues decisively Bryan Caplan.

There is a dual shortcoming ever-present and at work in the USA: we seem to be afraid of prediction markets and apparently too stupid to be allowed to transact in ways not invented 100 years ago. For these reasons we cannot while the rest of the world can have nice things like a real-money Polymarket as Scott Alexander discusses.

Zvi Mowshowitz does a deep dive into the Canadian trucker Freedom Convoy--what it was, why it was, and how its demise is important and deeply troubling. [NB: his prior deep dives are embedded links within the link above.]

In a post that will show up in a future dimensions analysis, Michael Makowsky discusses the problem with high-status, low-wage jobs.

In the marketplace of ideas do women possess a secret weapon? Richard Hanania explores how the sphere and tactics within the public debate space have shifted.

Daniel Fernandez breaks down the so-called Great Decoupling between capital and labor showing the many problems with this supposed phenomenon.

Zvi Mowshowitz has done the homework on Long Covid. Read at least his core model if not the entire piece. His practical summary: 
  1. Children are at minimal risk.
  2. Risk from a given case is proportional to its severity.
  3. One can act as if serious Long Covid will occur in ~0.2% of boosted Covid cases.
  4. That’s not nothing, but it’s not enough that you shouldn’t live your life.
Zachary Bartsch discusses the problems with (poor) teaching on price controls, a topic sadly never out of need. In the piece he links to a rightfully praised version by Russ Roberts.

Don Boudreaux has two great pieces on why these are the simple days and how the modern, global economy is the amazing provider of that simplicity. I love his concluding line in the latter piece: "The modern economy can well be described as ever-increasing complexity in the service of ever-more simplicity."

Crispin Sartwell writing in Reason asks us to free the art by selling the art--a great exposé on much of what is wrong in the art and art museum world.

I wouldn't want my high school guidance counselor determining my occupation for life. Hell, I'm glad I had enough gumption and independence at the time to reject her advice. I thought of that when reading this nice comparative argument by Chris Freiman in support of school choice. Just how just or desirable would occupation-by-residential-location be? Obviously, not very.

Harold Lee makes a great counter-conventional wisdom take advocating we buy things, not experiences. In the process he calls out the shallow-form minimalism where a bumper-sticker motto passes for some as full-fledged philosophy.

In what would make for a magnificent entry into Dimensions Analysis, what for if I could think this well, Robin Hansen discusses many axes of talk honing in on a comparison of sales talk (very prevalent) versus practical talk (what we would claim to prefer but clearly do not in the market test).

For the beginning of a new year (2022), Emily Oster reviews the data and studies on dieting

David Epstein breaks down how to interpret a 95%-accurate medical test along with the implications. Spoiler: For a 1 in 1,000 disease where a test with no chance of false negatives and only 5% false positives (i.e., 95% accurate), getting a positive test result means there is still only a 1.96% chance you have the disease.

The Resident Contrarian draws out an important distinction between art and craft. I really like his treatment of artist/craftsman as an axis along which creatives find themselves. It will be a topic I will explore as well as part of my dimensions analysis

Speaking of artists, Holden Karnofsky asks Where is Today's Beethoven? And he expands upon this as part of a series including this and this

The transit-industrial complex is dying if we would only let it as illustrated by Randy O'Toole

Similar to my The Big Five (and more) low-hanging fruit of public policy, Bryan Caplan offers several deregulatory proposals he believes would be winning positions for a so-inclined politician. David Henderson follows up with several of his own. 

Alas, politics is likely more complicated than that as would be no surprise to him; thus, Bryan Caplan breaks down the emotional base of politics including how cruelty is its core.

I'm going to tie together three important posts that are related. The first is this from Scott Alexander exploring a Pascal's Wager for medicine--taking all medicines because one might work and we don't know which one. The second two themselves on the same point and they obviously relate back to the first post. These are first (again) Scott Alexander on the problem of the phrase "no evidence" as used in science, et al., and the second is Zvi Mowshowitz reiterating and strengthening the same point.

George Selgin expertly explains the all-too-common mistake people (and economists) make when they try to define money. tl;dr - Money is a generally accepted medium of exchange

Bitcoin uses a lot of electricity, or so we are told/chided repeatedly, but comparing Bitcoin to a country isn't extremely informative. Doing it in dollars is as Alex Tabarrok points out; that is, unless you want to make it look like something scarier than it actually is. (Updated 2022-01-12: Steve Landsburg is even fiercer in calling out this nonsensical practice of poor tradeoff evaluation. I feel his pain!)

As easy as it is to think that "we" should do something to help workers negatively affected by trade, Don Boudreaux lays out the inherent flaws in this erroneous thinking.

The latest COVID links include Scott Alexander doing his typical knock-it-out-of-the-park work this time on Ivermectin. Next comes Jay Bhattacharya's recent Congressional testimony. Regarding the origins of COVID, Scott Sumner presents evidence pushing back against a narrative I've been leaning toward (>60% previously)--the lab leak hypothesis. Along those same lines Thomas Firey presents arguments in support of the accuracy (or undercounting if anything) of U.S. government stats on COVID deaths--my thoughts have been that there was more risk of overcounting than he allows for, and he makes a strong case. Also, don't miss this comment by Don Boudreaux (and others back on the original post) pushing back against some of the implications of Firey's arguments. 

As you probably know, Ryan Petersen "fixed" the most recent and pressing problem with U.S. ports. As you may not know, U.S. ports are awful comparatively, and for all the usual and no good reasons. TheZvi breaks down the miracle and what is really going on, and then follows that with an exposition on the paths forward.

Here are a few on war especially in connection to the thankfully ended but much too late War in Afghanistan. First an essay/book review by John Grove of Robert Nisbet’s 1988 The Present Age where Grove unpacks a rich narrative on how war is truly the health of the state. Next Jonathan Rauch defends Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then, James Bovard provides an excellent summary of the war's events freed from the lies they've told us and we have told ourselves. Finally, Bryan Caplan reminds us that despite what they say the military acts to show that for it we are expendable.

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

A great example to demonstrate how magnitude matters!, even though at large scales it is still easy to get lost.

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.