2015 May 20 Wednesday
Net Effects Of High Minimum Wages?

While I expect LA's coming $15 minimum wage will spur robot development, improve the quality of local services, and reduce interactions between customers and service providers Megan McArdle thinks a high minimum wage will produce deadweight loss due to a loss of economic efficiency.

In the short run I think Megan is correct. But in the long run higher minimum wage will boost economic efficiency by speeding the development and spread of automation technologies. Also, in the short run and long run higher minimum wage will increase unemployment among the least skilled, least driven, and least talented. The relentless advance of computer hardware and software technology promise to do that anyway. But higher minimum wage will cause that to happen sooner.

What a much higher minimum wage will also do: gentrify cities that already have other local conditions attractive to gentrifiers. Such cities should gradually ratchet up their minimum wage to $20 per hour. This will drive the low skilled work to outside the city's boundaries along with the low skilled employees and their families. This will improve local school scores, lower crime, free up housing, and all this will attract the gentrifiers.

Ben Casselman points out that the cities raising their minimum wages to $15 have well above average living costs. The people who manage to continue to keep their jobs when their wages go up to $15 per hour will still be pretty poor.

What I'd do if I was running fast food joints around LA: by franchise locations right outside the city boundaries. Alternatively, switch to franchises that have low-labor meals and support for payment kiosks. Automate, automate.

So far the number of cities moving to a $15/hour min wage (SF, LA, Seattle) isn't large enough to cause a big boost in fast food automation technology development. But throw in some more big cities (hear the call NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Jose) and that would change.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 20 05:09 PM 
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2015 May 17 Sunday
Ross Douthat on Mike Huckabee, Anti-Reform Conservative

Mike Huckabee represents retiree entitlements protecting conservatism. Conserve old age entitlements spending and oppose anything that competes with it.

So what competes with old age entitlements spending?

  • Military spending. A big conservative favorite.
  • Scientific research spending. Definitely a public good that benefits everyone and on the decline as it gets squeezed out by entitlements.
  • Roads and bridges. Again, a public good that benefits everyone. Though roads could be turned into toll roads.
  • The welfare state for the lower classes. This is the biggest vote getter that threatens to make the Republican Party into has-beens. Democrats are doing all they can to boost the size of the lower class with low skilled immigrants and plenty of business interests support this.
  • Education. Not a terribly effective but popular way to spend federal dollars. The big spending school districts (can you say "Baltimore"? sure) have bad outcomes while Utah has great bang for the educational buck.
  • Everything else.

The US military is going to be one of the big losers in all this. The US military is now top of the pops. But a growing China is in the process of making the seas near China dangerous places for the US Navy. But even before the cash crunch US military effectiveness has already started looking quite tarnished because in spite of lots of spilled blood and treasure it was not able to bring peace, love, and understanding to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the Islamic neighborhood. Nation building, counter-insurgency strategy and shock and awe did not produce desired outcomes. But does it matter?

Infrastructure spending and scientific research spending are going to be losers as well. I expect more increases in taxes as well.

It comes down to the old folks and poor folks. The old folks and the poor folks are both growing in number. Poor folks are growing because they are more fertile, they coming coming in from other countries, and because industry is automating the sorts of jobs they used to work at. The old folks are a growing proportion of the population due to lower fertility rates and longer life expectancies.

Since their numbers are growing the old folks and poor folks could each individually get less from the government even as the total amount spent on their groups grows.

So what's going to happen? Means testing for old folks benefits seems like a matter of when, not if. How long until higher net worth people have to pay more for Medicare and get less in Social Security? Perhaps a large financial crisis in the 2020s will force this.

Fast economic growth used to allow the government to hand out more stuff each year without taking higher percentages away from each person. But economic growth has become too anemic for too many years and now the zero sum nature of the game as become clear and politics has become more bitter and negative. I expect this to get much worse before it gets any better.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 17 03:48 PM 
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Upper Class NYC Glam-SAHMs: Glamorous Stay At Home Moms

Who is out in Central Park with their kids? Glam-SAHMs: Glamorous Stay At Home Moms with advanced elite degrees whose husbands manage hedge funds and private equity. On the bright side they are having lots of kids. You might be surprised if you read the whole thing.

The big families and stay-at-home wives of these masters of the universe seem like a form of conspicuous consumption by alpha males. But they also want heirs. Imagine how much more enthused they'll become about big families once they can guarantee having all super kids. The next generation of hedge fund managers will jump on CRISPR-Cas9 offspring genetic editing to make their kids capable of functioning at high levels. No more regression to the mean with disappointing children. When genetic editing takes out most of the risk of having dud disappointing kids upper class family sizes will go up.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 17 12:03 PM 
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How Many Political Leaders Are Blackmailed?

Ron Unz looks at whether John McCain's period of time as a POW involved heroism or collaboration with the enemy. Then he asks an interesting question: does the existence of material that can be used for blackmail help a person rise to the top since the blackmailers know that the compromised person can easily be controlled?

The realization that many of our political leaders may be harboring such terrible personal secrets, secrets that our media outlets regularly conceal, raises an important policy implication independent of the particular secrets themselves. In recent years I have increasingly begun to suspect that some or even many of our national leaders may occasionally make their seemingly inexplicable policy decisions under the looming threat of personal blackmail, and that this may have also been true in the past.

Read the whole article before dismissing the idea.

We have plenty of other reasons why democracy is failing and the constitution no longer constrains the government. But this might be yet another one.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 17 11:04 AM 
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2015 May 16 Saturday
The Battle Of The Womb In The Middle East

At the time of Israel's creation 13,000 out of 65,000 Bedouins did not flee. There are now 240,000 Bedouins in Israel about 67 years later, 18.46 times more. That's almost a 4.5% growth rate per year. I wonder if the growth rate has slowed at all.

In the 20th century some groups got pushed out of areas or dominated because they lost the battle of the womb. Serbs got pushed out of Kosovo by higher Muslim fertility. Christians in Lebanon dropped as a percentage of the total population which set them up for defeat in the Lebanese civil war.

The 21st century will witness similar shifts in the power of various groups. What is going to happen in Israel and the occupied territories? Will Arab Muslims win a long demographic war against Israel? Or will Israel push Muslims out of Israel proper? Israel's Jewish growth rate is lower than its Arab growth rate. But the Haredi Jews have the highest growth rate. If the Haredis maintain their high growth rate they could push the overall Jewish growth rate above that of the Arabs.

The Christians in the Middle East will continue to lose ground, flee, and be killed. They've already lost the demographic war. The Yezidis are facing a bad situation as well.

I also wonder about Shiites versus Sunnis. Iran has a fertility rate below 2 in contrast to Iraq with a fertility rate above 4. But in Iraq are Shiites or Sunnis making more babies? Same question in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other gulf states. I also wonder about the relative fertility rates more moderate versus more radical Sunnis. My guess is that the moderates are losing the battle of the womb.

Another interesting demographic war: Turks vs Kurds vs Arabs. The fertility rate of Turks is lower than the fertility rate of Kurds in Turkey. Some Turks fear they will become a minority in their own country some time in the 21st century. By contrast, the Kurdish fertility rate in Iraq, while high, is not as high as the Arab fertility rate in Iraq. So the Kurds might take over Turkey (or perhaps secede from it) but lose territory in Iraq.

Other Middle Eastern conflicts come to mind. In Yemen are the Houthis or Sunni Arabs winning the battle of the womb? How about the fertility rates of various Syrian factions? Will fertility rate differences determine who eventually comes out on top in Libya?

By Randall Parker 2015 May 16 08:21 PM 
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2015 May 15 Friday
Motives For False Rape Allegations

Beware of women who might have these motivations:

With the cooperation of the police agency of a small metropolitan community, 45 consecutive, disposed, false rape allegations covering a 9 year period were studied. These false rape allegations constitute 41% the total forcible rape cases (n = 109) reported during this period. These false allegations appear to serve three major functions for the complainants: providing an alibi, seeking revenge, and obtaining sympathy and attention. False rape allegations are not the consequence of a gender-linked aberration, as frequently claimed, but reflect impulsive and desperate efforts to cope with personal and social stress situations.

I'd like to see more systematic research to measure the extent of false allegations in general. I once attended part of a criminal trial with my high school sociology class and it became apparent that a couple of employees had ripped off a store and tried to frame the (mildly mentally retarded) defendant. We watched as cross examination by the defense attorney basically destroyed the prosecution's case. After we left the court room we wondered whether charges would be brought against those who made the false claims.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 15 07:05 PM 
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2015 May 14 Thursday
How To Eliminate Child Poverty

Sometimes a crazy policy goal by progressives is so framed that only the possible ways to achieve it are far outside the Overton Window. Here is a crazy one I came across: If any household at 60% of median incomes has children then the children are defined as living in poverty and the goal is to end this horror.

For example, the last UK Labour government had a goal of ending child poverty by 2020, a goal accepted by the Coalition when it took over in May 2010. Child poverty was defined as children living in homes with less than 60 percent of median UK incomes.

You might think at first glance this goal is impossible. But play with it. There are ways, though all the possible solutions are extreme.

The most obvious way to achieve this goal is to convince or, more likely, require more than half the population to not make babies. Any household not in the top 40% could just not be licensed for reproduction.

Another solution: take all babies away from the bottom half and force the higher income households to raise the kids. That solution probably holds the most appeal for the tabula rasa faithful.

There's a labor market regulation approach: do not allow family without babies to earn more than 60% of median income and require businesses to pay all parents amounts that add up to 60%. How to reduce the disruption of such a wage restriction? Require one member of a married couple without kids to stay at home. At the same time, require both members of a married

There is yet another way: legalize polygamous marriage, especially by high earning men. But the money makers would not necessarily have to be men. A man could marry a couple of well compensated women and the 3 of them could make babies. But lower class women would need to either as small groups marry well paid men or as bigger groups bring their combined incomes to at least 60% of median income. A large enough group of women married to the same high income guy could provide child care for each other as well as do all household chores. But a few of them would need to be ready to go to work if the guy ever lost his job.

The key element in all these approaches is that some substantial group remains in the bottom 60% of households not earning very much. Single men and also women who do not want kids would have to play this part.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 14 04:20 PM 
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2015 May 08 Friday
With 36.8% Of Vote Tories Got Over Half Of Parliament Seats

While the Conservatives in Britain just won over half the seats in the British Parliament they did this with just 36.8% of the vote. An amazing consequence of the First Past The Post voting system. Between them Conservatives and Labour won about 67% of the vote. So about a third of the UK population voted for other parties.

While the UK Independence Party only has 1 Parliament seat it went from about 3% in the 2010 vote to almost 13% in the 2015 vote. The big gain by the UKIP of about 10% is the more amazing story of this election. Can the UKIP start winning majorities in some areas and get Parliament seats in the next election?

Will the Conservatives stay in the EU? Give the UK voters a chance to vote to exit the EU? Will the Conservatives cut back on immigration?

Andrew Stuttaford on "shy Tories":

Where did the pollsters go wrong? Probably by underestimating the amount of “shy Tories” that there are. Brits should pause to think of what it says about the country’s intellectual climate that so many voters on one side of the aisle are unwilling to disclose their voting preferences.

My guess is that if the people on the British Left stop to think about how well they've done in making conservatives afraid to express their views that they'll feel very self congratulatory. How thrilling to marginalize and delegitimatize your enemy.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 08 09:06 PM 
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Getting Hammered By Our Elites: Least Educated Hurting In Job Market

Why are workers without much education getting hammered? Since this is an article in The Gray Lady (aka The Blind Lady) it has no mention of immigration.

Stop immigration of anyone with an IQ below 120 and the salaries of the least cognitively able would not be quite so low.

Though in the long run the people at the bottom are all going to get replaced by robots. I have no idea what someone with an IQ of 80 will do for a living 20 years from now.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 08 08:28 PM 
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Labor Market Wants Technically Skilled And Few Heed The Call

Salary levels on the job market pretty much shout "study STEM subjects". But few people take that path. from the mid 1980s up to a few years ago the number of people getting STEM degrees stayed about the same while the number of college grads increased 50%.

Some people drop out of STEM degrees because it is hard. Others want to do work that involves more social interaction or caring for others. Check out what women major in at college. These college major choices are revealed preferences. What stands out: A very strong preference for the caring health professions. Useful jobs and fairly well paying too. But the women getting degrees in psychology are doing themselves no favors.

The women studying education are similarly wasting their time. Consider that the Teach For America idealists, while not really doing much good, are just as good at teaching as people who studied education as undergrads. So education degrees are a waste of time and money. But on the bright side, the numbers enrolled in teacher training have been plummeting.

Also on the bright side, the value added from STEM schools is getting more attention. Also on the bright side, some Ivy League graduates are going to coding camps after graduation to get the useful skills their expensive elite educations did not give them.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 08 07:15 PM 
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2015 May 02 Saturday
What Inner City Lower Class Really Like

Read this piece by Heather Mac Donald. Miss Linda is the crack addict mother of 3 adolescent boys growing up in Philadephia.

On Sixth Street, drug dealing is tantamount to a bourgeois occupation. Chuck complains that his middle brother, Reggie, lacks the patience for “making slow money selling drugs hand to hand.” Instead, Reggie favors armed robberies, to the admiration of his mother, Miss Linda. “He fearless,” she says. “A stone-cold gangster.” It would be a mistake, however, to think of drug dealing as a peaceful activity. Early on, a disgruntled supplier firebombs Chuck’s car. Chuck responds by shooting at the supplier’s home. In 2007, at the end of Goffman’s chronicle, Chuck is fatally shot in the head while standing outside a Chinese restaurant, one of three shootings that night in Philadelphia. The killer, Goffman writes, was “trying to make it at the bottom rung of a shrinking drug trade.”

Another part of the article:

Ned, 43, supports himself in part by stealing credit cards and intercepting checks in the mail. When he and his girlfriend Jean, a crack addict, need money for property taxes, they lure a cousin of Reggie’s (Miss Linda’s second son) to their house with the promise of gossip about a former girlfriend. Waiting there is a man in a hoodie, who robs the cousin at gunpoint. The unintended punch line of the story: Ned and Jean also get income from working as foster-care parents, a fact that does not apparently give Goffman pause but that speaks volumes, sadly, about the quality of parenting in the area.

Rob your cousin for property tax money. Just another day in Philly.

My sympathy is with the cops who have to keep us safe from these people.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 02 06:01 PM 
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Computers In Classroom Fail To Improve Performance

Larry Cuban, an emeritus prof at Stanford Graduate School of Education who has taught high school and worked as a school superintendent, says technology has failed to improve student academic performance See: The Lack of Evidence-Based Practice: The Case of Classroom Technology (Part 1)

Since 2010, laptops, tablets, interactive whiteboards, smart phones, and a cornucopia of software have become ubiquitous. Yet has academic achievement improved as a consequence? Has teaching and learning changed? Has use of devices in schools led to better jobs? These are the basic questions that school boards, policymakers, and administrators ask.

The answers to these questions are “no,” “no,” and “probably not.”

Test scores, the current gold standard policymakers use to determine academic achievement, show [i]

This is unsurprising to anyone who lacks the tabula rasa faith and has read the major findings of psychometric research. Since the computers aren't implanted inside brains of course they do not improve brains.

His second part: The Lack of Evidence-Based Practice–The Case of Classroom Technology (Part 2)

Politically smart state and local policymakers believe–here is where ideology enters the picture–that buying new tablets loaded with software, deploying them to K-12 classrooms, and watching how the devices engage both teachers and students will work; it is considered “best practice” because, well, “we believe in it.” The theory is that student engagement with the device and software will dramatically alter classroom instruction and lead to improved achievement. The problem, of course (you no doubt have guessed where I am going with this) — is that evidence of this electronic innovation transforming teaching and achievement growth is not only sparse but also unpersuasive even when some studies show a small “effect size.”

People with more Panglossian views think tablets, laptops, high speed internet, and virtual reality goggles are going to usher in a new age of super intellectual contributions by billions of humans. Wrong, wrong, and triple wrong. The computers will increase the productivity of those with the most cognitive ability while making much of the rest of the human population relatively less valuable. A growing fraction of the population will not work unless their wages are subsidized by tax revenue.

By Randall Parker 2015 May 02 11:02 AM 
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2015 April 25 Saturday
Generations Of Free Range Parents Not Being Held Accountable

Free-range vs. helicopter: What does it mean to be a good parent?

Parenting decisions that were commonplace a few decades ago are now cause for 911 calls and visits from a police officer or someone from child protective services.

Nazi war criminals, even minor figures, have been prosecuted decades after their crimes. But so far I've seen no move to go back and prosecute grandparents for the neglectful ways they raised their kids in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Tens of millions of parents neglected their kids for decades and are living free today without even being socially stigmatized.

Look, almost all living parents committed child neglect by letting their kids walk around unsupervised. To make it easy to bring them to justice how about holding all parents automatically guilty if their kids came of age before the year 2000? The odds are that even if they aren't personally guilty of failing to supervise every moment of every day of their own kids they were silent about extensive child neglect all around them. So mass guilt is the order of the day.

We could start by arresting all the major political families that are known not to have used nannies every year of upbringing of their offspring. I figure the Bushes and Clintons should all be arrested along with Mitt Romney and all the Mormons. Chances are they are all guilty of child endangerment. The big Kennedy family of course should be arrested. Governor Brown of California could take over the Presidency since he never had any kids.

This calls out for development of time machines so child neglect law enforcement can be carried into the past to capture all the people who escaped justice by dying. This can't be allowed to stand. Just about every parent for almost all of human history (until the moral enlightenment spreading in the last 10 years) has been guilty of child neglect. We should not let these people escape justice just because they live in the past.

By Randall Parker 2015 April 25 02:47 PM 
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2015 April 23 Thursday
Proposed Democrat Minimum Wage Boost Will Spur Robotics

What a great way to spur development of robots for fast food restaurants: Democrats Are Rallying Around $12 Minimum Wage. This way America will develop a technological lead over nations in robotic cooking, robotic cleaning, robotic shelf stocking, and in many other occupations done by minimum wage workers.

In the long run the people still in jobs will enjoy much higher living standards and greater convenience. A fast food restaurant could stay open 24 hours per day with little incremental cost. The robots are just going to be sitting there all night. They could be flipped on for cooking action when an order arrives from a cell phone of someone riding their robotic car looking for eats at 3 AM. That's the sort of future that awaits us as soon robotics matures.

Wait, did someone say this will cause problems? That most high school drop-outs already don't work? Sure. But that's already a problem. No, of course I do not know what all the immigration amnesty recipients are going to do for a living. Maybe the Clinton Foundation will be able to raise enough money abroad to give some of them jobs.

Back to the robots: yes, we need robots that can work as domestic servants, robots that would complain about getting paid in electric battery recharging, worn out parts replacement, and the occasional pat on the head. A higher minimum wage will make all that happen sooner. The $12 minimum wage should just be a stepping stone toward a $15 per hour minimum wage that will immanentize the eschaton.

By Randall Parker 2015 April 23 09:09 PM 
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2015 April 21 Tuesday
Norway More For Open Discussion Than Sweden

The contrast between Norway and Sweden on immigration: Norway is relatively more honest on the topic.

“Sweden is very puzzling,” said Grete Brochmann, a leading Norwegian immigration scholar. The Swedes, she said, “are extremely liberal toward immigration, but they have a very authoritarian attitude toward debate about it. In Norway the idea is, open discussion is basically good. If there’s hostility, better to get it out.”

I would like to live in a more honest society. What's the most honest Western society when it comes to discussing social issues?

See this interview with economic researcher Tino Sanandaji on what is happening with Muslim immigrants to Sweden. Free speech on immigration is prevented with job losses and shunning.

Sanandaji explains how the major political parties and media created an official lie and suppressed the real data.

Secular religions can be just as repressive and cultish as supernatural religions. The West's turn away from supernatural religions has not made public discussions more honest.

By Randall Parker 2015 April 21 05:50 PM 
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2015 April 19 Sunday
Waiting For Anointment: Hillary Clinton Wants To Be President

Gotta say, I'm conflicted about whether to write about US Presidential candidates. My odds of having any impact on the outcome are really low. Once the next President is in office I'd be best off totally ignoring the next set of bad policy choices and assorted debacles. But what pulls me in: some people think one or more of the candidates are good. They have enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton or even for Jeb Bush. Son of Brock Landers (SOBL) thinks Hillary is perfect for today's America. It is amazing and tragic what makes sense to the people who vote in America.

Here is a woman you only know due to her husband. She was in a toxic marriage where she was repeatedly humiliated on a state, national and global stage by her husband, but unlike the Lifetime movie, never left him. Wasn't feminism about escaping those bad Silent or GI generation loveless marriages of convenience? She did not divorce and run on her own. She stood by Bill and received the NY US Senate seat as political alimony. She ducked out of running for president in '04, did nothing really in the Senate but vote for the Iraq War, blew '08, and then was Secretary of State as the US saw influence and power recede globally. Her resume is "Libya", and if we ever evaluate Libya 2010 vs. 2015, that one thing looks awful. Hillary running is like the rapidly advancing female executive who is getting promotions because she is the only woman in the division.

We need some sort of improvement on democracy. This is what comes to me when I read obvious points like the ones SOBL makes above. What improvement? Is there some demographic slice of America that would make a great set of voters? Or do we need another form of government? Genetically reengineering humans to make more sense is still a distant prospect. With the humans we've got how can we get more sensible leaders?

SNL is being brutal on Hillary. I doubt this will dim her chances.

Camille Paglia states obvious things the voters do not care about.

What it takes to plan a Hillary Chipotle trip.

I think Jeb Bush is worse. Most of the Republican pack members are wrong on immigration and wrong on foreign adventures. I despair of getting a good leader again.

By Randall Parker 2015 April 19 11:25 AM 
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