2012 November 30 Friday
Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda: Ban Rush Limbaugh From Radio

Leftists aren't big fans of freedom of speech when it is speech they oppose.

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh's radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

Some of the commenters at that site claim people do not have a right to free speech on the airwaves. They say as long as someone isn't gagged or arrested the government can go pretty far to ensure that person can't be heard. What I wonder: will the percentage of people who think that way increase with time? Will the demographic changes underway in America undermine support for free speech? I'm thinking the answer is Yes. But can one figure that out using polling data by ethnic group?

My guess is that women are more likely to claim that people should be protected from getting their feelings hurt. Is that the case?

Once Republicans become unelectable for the Presidency the Right's freedom of speech will be at the mercy of the people who future Democratic Party Presidents nominate for the US Supreme Court. How much are they going to let us say?

Update: I realize that some object to my labeling of all leftists as anti-free speech. Okay, I agree there are leftists who aren't against free speech. But look at America today. Who is actually trying (and even succeeding) to muzzle speech? In academia it is the Left. In workplaces it is the Left. Who labels quite rational viewpoints as hate speech and attempts to silence it? The Left. The Right in America today is more tolerant of opposing viewpoints than the Left. It is usually Right-wingers who bite their tongues in social, work, and academic settings because too many Leftists see Right wing viewpoints (especially what has come to be called alt right) as so morally illegitimate that Rightists don't even bother to contest statements from the Left. Effectively, in the workplace The Blank Slate (aka the standard social science model is the law of the land. We have to pretend to believe falsehoods in order to hold jobs. That's oppressive. Plus, it is quite bad for the Republic.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 30 07:54 PM 
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2012 November 29 Thursday
The Fiscal Cliff: Go Over It Like Thelma And Louise

I find myself in agreement with both Howard Dean and Charles Krauthammer: Go over that fiscal cliff.

Granted we return to late 1990s tax rates. But the advantage of high tax rates is that they make people more strongly against higher spending. They feel the pain of the spending.

We also get sizable military spending cuts. Well, the United States shouldn't spend on the World Police role. There's not a good ROI on being World Police. So lets stop doing that.

We also get cuts in social programs. Got no complaint about that either. Cut down the size of the Leviathan. The US is on an unsustainable course in so many ways. The fiscal cliff will reduce the rate of our decline. I say it is a price worth paying.

So gun the engine and head for the fiscal cliff.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 29 10:30 PM 
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2012 November 27 Tuesday
How Capricious Is The Legal System?

Gavin Mcinnes looks at people jailed for reasons that quite a few of us would find outrageous.

When a seafood importer lost out on a bid for a lobster contract, he sent an anonymous fax to the Fish and Wildlife Service claiming that Abner Schoenwetter, the guy who got the bid, was using the wrong container. Turns out Honduras had recently decided you have to ship lobster tails in bags, not boxes. Soon after the tip, officials from the FBI, IRS, National Marine Fisheries, and Customs stormed his place and threw him in jail FOR SIX YEARS! He lost his business, his family, and everything.

The revenge war is almost as serious as the drug war. An ex-con recently told me I would be horrified to see how many men are in jail for getting in an argument with their girlfriend. Often a girlfriend will get a restraining order during a breakup. Later, the couple will make up and he’ll move back in with her. The next time they get into an argument, she calls the cops and he’s going to jail for violating the restraining order.

What I'd like to know: What are the biggest risks for running into legal trouble without in any way intending to break the law? Some of the examples Mcinnes cites are tragic. But they involve rare circumstances. False accusations are a risk obviously. Romance gone bad motivates some women to lie with enthusiasm. Lots of lies are told in divorce court. But I'm expecting judges to be skeptical of statements said during divorces. So where are the risks?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 27 09:46 PM 
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Pravda Relieves Our Worry That Obama Is A Muslim

Writing for the former Soviet newspaper Pravda (Truth) Xavier Lerma informs us that Barack Obama is a communist. I am so relieved. The accusations that Obama's a Muslim had me concerned. After all, Islam is a viable religion. Whereas communism's pretty weak at this point. So this makes Obama a lesser threat as I see it. Wow, that's cool.

Putin in 2009 outlined his strategy for economic success. Alas, poor Obama did the opposite but nevertheless was re-elected. Bye, bye Miss American Pie. The Communists have won in America with Obama but failed miserably in Russia with Zyuganov who only received 17% of the vote. Vladimir Putin was re-elected as President keeping the NWO order out of Russia while America continues to repeat the Soviet mistake.

So how'd America manage to elect a communist? I mean, we are supposed to have the most capitalistic society in the world. The answer: Illiterate voters. Lots of illiterate voters. They were too ignorant to know what they are doing.

Recently, Obama has been re-elected for a 2nd term by an illiterate society and he is ready to continue his lies of less taxes while he raises them. He gives speeches of peace and love in the world while he promotes wars as he did in Egypt, Libya and Syria. He plans his next war is with Iran as he fires or demotes his generals who get in the way.

So that's the view from Moscow.

Hey, if you are going to get in Obama's way don't have an affair with your biographer. He's a communist dammit. Bound to be ruthless when it suits him. If you want to have affairs and serve in the Obama Administration might I suggest working for something the comrade is a big fan of? Make sure it involves taking from the productive to give to the less productive or entirely unproductive.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 27 09:03 PM 
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2012 November 25 Sunday
Obama Administration To Push Disparate Impact Doctrine

The disparate impact doctrine holds that if institutions end up treating racial groups differently on average (e.g. say banks reject more loan applications from blacks) then this is racism and is not allowed. If the groups happen to differ on average in relevant ways (e.g. net worth, income, problems in credit history) then under disparate impact this does not matter. The institution has got to make decisions that cost it big money or else get sued by the federal government. This is nuts of course. But unsurprisingly, Barack Obama intends to hit businesses harder with disparate impact enforcement.

Other targets of the administration's "racial justice" juggernaut include: standardized academic testing, professional licensing examinations, employee background checks, voter ID requirements, student disciplinary codes, prison sentencing guidelines — you name it.

The goal is to equalize outcomes based on race without regard for performance or merit.

According to Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, President Obama is committed to "aggressively pushing the 'disparate impact' approach to civil-rights enforcement" through which "the federal government insists that the numbers come out right — even if it means that policemen and firefighters cannot be tested, that companies should hire criminals, that loans must be made to the uncreditworthy, and that — I kid you not — whether pollution is acceptable depends on whether dangerous chemicals are spread in a racially balanced way."

I expect more of this in the future. Some businesses that are on edge of whether US operations make sense will decide to shift more operations abroad. Others will just grow more slowly or not grow because disparate impact amounts to a tax on corporate operations. The US government is going to become more dysfunctional in its treatment of the private sector in decades to come unless the left becomes more realistic about human nature.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 25 09:59 PM 
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Join The Chinese Communist Party To Get Girls

I'm rifting off The Producers: "Don't be shtupid, be a smahty, come and join the Communist Chinese Pahty". The Ministry of Tofu weblog has fun posts on China. Liang Wengen, president of Sany Heavy Industry, says join the Chinese Communist Party if you want to get girls.

Delegate Liang, one of the richest in China, who heads China’s biggest heavy machinery maker, said on November 11. The day is celebrated by Chinese youth as “Singles’ Day”, a festival for bachelors and bachelorettes, because the date, 11.11, consists of four “ones”. Commenting on the social phenomenon that Chinese of marriageable age have trouble finding a suitable mate, he suggested that single men join the Communist Party, “I actually thought about joining the Party long ago, as in China, if a man is a party member, it is easier for him to find a date. Most party members’ wives are prettier than non-party members’ wives. Chinese girls love party members, because a Communist Party member has ideals and is willing to sacrifice.”

So he wants you to believe it is the ideals of party members that attract the women (giggle), not the status and money the members can make from corruption.

The post has other fun anecdotes from the 18th party congress including a comment from an 11 year old who feels the impact of high housing prices cutting the amount of money available to buy toys.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 25 05:45 PM 
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UK Economic Stagnation Started In 2000

Tyler "Great Stagnation" Cowen points to a graph that shows the UK economy hasn't grown starting in the year 2000.

Why? Labour Party policies probably are at least partly to blame. Immigration could be a contributor as well if the UK's immigration has been more toward the low-skilled as in America. But natural resource limitations played a big role. Tthe UK took a big hit when North Sea oil production peaked in 1999 and then went into rapid decline just as world oil prices started rising rapidly. You can see in table 4 how world oil production growth went thru successive downshifts starting in the early 1970s. The UK was insulated from the effects of this change due to North Sea production. So the down winds from higher oil prices and lower production growth really kicked in for the UK starting in 2000.

Here are some more economic stagnation charts from The Guardian. Make your browser maximized before you maximize those charts. The resizing does not work well.

Then are the Western countries doomed to continued economic stagnation due to heightening competition for depleting natural resources and worsening demographic conditions? Well, I see a couple rays of hope. Michael Pettis argues that China's economy is so fundamentally unbalanced that its growth rate is slowing and therefore its growing demand for natural resources is slowing or even reversing in some cases. Pettis sees a big overbuilding of world mining capacity which he expects will cause a several years of lower prices for at least some commodities. This will help the Western countries somewhat. But, short of a depression, high oil prices will continue to weigh down the OECD countries.

So we've reached a point where misfortunes in some countries (e.g. southern Europe and China) cut commodities demand enough to allow the economies of other countries to grow. Welcome to the 21st century.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 25 03:18 PM 
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Skilled Worker Shortage In Manufacturing An Illusion

A great article by Adam Davidson in New York Times Magazine shows just how low the pay is in supposedly skilled manufacturing jobs. Low wages mean no labor shortage.

Eric Isbister, the C.E.O. of GenMet, a metal-fabricating manufacturer outside Milwaukee, told me that he would hire as many skilled workers as show up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but soon had to fire 15. Part of Isbister’s pickiness, he says, comes from an avoidance of workers with experience in a “union-type job.” Isbister, after all, doesn’t abide by strict work rules and $30-an-hour salaries. At GenMet, the starting pay is $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 an hour after several years of good performance. From what I understand, a new shift manager at a nearby McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.

The McDonald's job is probably more secure than the manufacturing job too. In the last 20 years employment of high school drop-outs in manufacturing has dropped in half (see next link). As manufacturing equipment becomes even more automated the prospects for assembly line workers will get even worse.

Only engineers and software developers should go into manufacturing in order to program the design and manufacturing software. When manufacturers are starting people at $10 per hour the only reason to go into manufacturing is if you have no other option.

What I do not understand: what are the least skilled people going to do in 20 years? Anyone have a good guess?

Since manufacturing jobs are now paying near minimum wage level isn't it time we end the practice of letting in large numbers of immigrant low-skilled workers, legal or illegal? Isn't it crazy to pretend we need more low-skilled workers? The unemployment rate for high school graduates is nearly triple that of college graduates.

Among Americans aged 25 to 34—the youngest group that would have completed college under a traditional schedule—the unemployment rate for bachelor's degree holders was 4.1%, versus 11% for those with only a high-school diploma and 9.8% for those who began college but didn't finish.

High school drop-outs are at 12.2% unemployment. These numbers underestimate the differences in employment rates due to lower labor market participation rates and higher prison participation rates among those with lower IQ scores and educational attainments.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 25 01:19 PM 
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2012 November 23 Friday
When A Chinese Party Boss Becomes Too Rich To Bribe

Chongqing China party boss Lei Zhengfu became too rich from corruption to be bribed by property developers. What to do? One developer got clever and hired girls to sleep with party bosses and then secretly make video recordings to blackmail the party bosses into approving development projects. Imagine that sort of ethos in America. No more NIMBY obstructionism.

By 2007, after Lei had been promoted to Vice Party Secretary of Chongqing's Jiulongpo District, Lei's personal fortune had grown to the extent that developers effectively found him impossible to bribe.

One developer discovered Lei's weakness for women however, and set about hiring a number of attractive young girls, all under 20-years-old, and using them to set a "honey trap" for Lei. The women, after becoming Lei's mistresses, would secretly video themselves having sex with the corrupt official, giving their employer leverage over Lei.

The women weren't only willing to have sex for hire. They were willing to surreptitiously video record the sex in order to do blackmail. The communist party bosses (investigative reporter Zhu Ruifeng has sex videos of at least 5 other officials) were willing to believe these girls really wanted to sleep with them just because they are sexy powerful guys. Seriously, how could this guy ever think his mistress was in to him?

I think there's a lesson here for the party bosses: Once you get rich enough to no longer need bribes you should only sleep with girls you pay for. Don't accept free sex. Nothing is free. You should know better than that. Also, you should only bed girls in places where you control the settings. Make it your secret apartment rather than her's and use really good locks and electronic countermeasures.

An investigative reporter behind this story, Zhu Ruifeng, is under threat of arrest for other muckraking work. Local governments try to jail anti-corruption reporters in China.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 23 09:57 PM 
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Why San Bernardino Went Bankrupt: Public Employee Unions

A long and very excellent Reuters analysis of the San Bernardino city bankruptcy is worth reading in full. The analysis outlines the forces of corruption and irresponsibility that drove San Bernardino and numerous other California cities to drive up wages and retirement benefits to city workers (especially police and fire) to unsustainable level. Curiously a state-level agency, the California Public Employee Retirement System, encouraged the cities to irresponsibly expand retirement benefits. Fat city for police.

In bankrupt San Bernardino, a third of the city's 210,000 people live below the poverty line, making it the poorest city of its size in California. But a police lieutenant can retire in his 50s and take home $230,000 in one-time payouts on his last day, before settling in with a guaranteed $128,000-a-year pension. Forty-six retired city employees receive over $100,000 a year in pensions.

Three quarters of the city budget goes to their police and fire departments. The article names some other California cities at risk of bankruptcy.

Lest you think this is just a California problem, the article says Illinois and Kentucky are in the worst shape.

Fat city for fire fighters.

The average salary for a full-time San Bernardino firefighter in 1997 was $75,610, adjusted for inflation into 2010 dollars. By 2010, it was nearly $147,000, according to a Reuters analysis of Census Bureau data.

We need to ban public employee unions, at least at the local level. They become more powerful than the voters and are quite effective at misleading the voters.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 23 07:34 PM 
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2012 November 22 Thursday
Wal-Mart Unionization: Another Way To Cut Immigration

A labor union is trying to get Wal-Mart employees to go on strike. Wal-Mart pays close to minimum wage. Since Wal-Mart wage costs are so low management has less incentive to automate than they would if labor costs were, say, twice as high. Imagine Wal-Mart had to pay much higher wages, say $17 per hour. Management would spend more on automation to reduce labor usage. The resulting reduction in labor would include a reduction in demand for immigrant labor and therefore would reduce the incentive for people to enter the United States illegally.

With sufficiently advanced robots it would make sense for a Wal-Mart store to close for a few hours a day to allow robots to go out, restock the shelves, repair displays, and clean the floors. Also, employees who direct customers to goods could do this remotely from interactive video stations located throughout a store. Shoppers could even state questions and have a computer try to answer questions before a human was brought in for the cases where the customer didn't get a satisfactory answer from the computer.

Wal-Mart's increased spending on automation would accelerate the development of technologies that the whole retail sector would embrace. Distribution and retail store automation technology will eventually totally eliminate the added cost of unionization and then go even further and lower costs below where they would be absent the unionization.

Higher labor costs from unionization would lead to higher retail store product prices in the short term. Good news: Higher prices for goods at Wal-Mart would provide incentive to buy more online at lower prices. That would enable more automation. Stores have customers and Wal-Mart employees walking around and they both are obstacles to automation. In an order fulfillment warehouse much more automation is possible. Kiva Systems robots automate most of the work for retrieving inventory in warehouses.

The robots do an excellent job of moving goods to the humans who pack shipments. Of course, it is just a matter of time till the final step gets done by robots too.

History Channel show on the Kiva robots.

Time to allow unionization of low paid jobs that are most ripe for automation.

Update: "Bogwraith" points out in the comments that unions can sometimes block the introduction of new technology. Certainly a higher minimum wage would be preferable to unionization for this reason. But industries across the spectrum have made great strides in automating in spite of the presence of unions. That's true in the auto industry, underground coal mining, and steel among others. Wal-Mart would have great incentive to automate in order to compete with Dollar General, Target, and many other non-union competitors. Still, a higher minimum wage is preferable because it would have economy-wide impact on employer attitudes toward automation.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 22 10:27 PM 
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Since We Aren't Swedes We Can't Be Governed Like Sweden

The Swedish left-liberal utopian dream of Paul Krugman et. al. is out of America's reach says Ross Douthat (my terminology, not his).

First, even though Sweden is more egalitarian than the United States, the link between child poverty and family structure is still very much present, and non-intact families produce worse outcomes for their offspring in Scandinavia as well. Second, Sweden’s high out-of-wedlock birth rate notwithstanding, Swedish children are more likely than Americans to grow up with both parents in the household: The marriage rate may be lower, in other words, but Swedish families are more stable even when the parents are cohabitating rather than joined in matrimony.

In Sweden dad actually wants to raise the kids. Mom and dad can stand each other's company. How, er, un-American.

Gotta have lots of social capital to run a Swedish welfare state without social pathology.

The Swedish experience does demonstrate that it’s possible for a welfare-state society to survive the waning of religion and the decline of traditional marriage without sacrificing middle class prosperity. But this success is founded on a level of cultural homogeneity and an inheritance of social capital that simply isn’t available in a polyglot republic-cum-empire like our own.

We do not have the right stuff. We'll have even less of the right stuff every year for years to come. My fear: the dysfunctional people will come to way outnumber the responsible. Then the dysfunctional will vote for such large expansions of the welfare state that it'll become easier to be dysfunctional, more will make irresponsible choices, and it'll be a vicious circle. When we make it easier to be a single mom we get more single moms. Then they vote for policies that make it easier to be a single mom

You know how diversity is celebrated by left-liberals as delivering great benefit? Diversity is another word for heterogeneity. Diversity reduces the trust and civic engagement that enable Sweden's social welfare state to function in spite of its assorted harmful effects on society.

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

The Swedish model isn't sustainable in the long run, even in Sweden. Immigration is one reason why. The Swedes are importing a dysfunctional lower class.

In January 2005, 22 percent of those out of work registered at the employment service were born outside Sweden. That figure has now reached 35 percent, according to Dagens Nyheter’s report.

Social capital in Sweden is very strong. Though likely lower since this book was written.

The book is packed with many intriguing revelations. The contributors note, for instance, that waning participation in unions, churches, and political parties seems to be virtually universal, a troubling discovery as these forms of social capital are especially important for empowering less educated, less affluent portions of the population. Indeed, in general, the researchers found more social grouping among the affluent than among the working classes and they find evidence of a younger generation that is singularly uninterested in politics, distrustful both of politicians and of others, cynical about public affairs, and less inclined to participate in enduring social organizations. Yet social capital appears as strong as ever in Sweden, where 40% of the adult population participate in "study circles"--small groups who meet weekly for educational discussions.

To get a good contrast in how America's doing read Charles Murray's Coming Apart. Short answer: not so good.

Will the welfare state in America start growing again as the single moms grow in number and vote for the donkeys? Will social pathology in America therefore grow? Higher crime rates in the offing? I know too many people where married couples are helping to raise their grandkids. What happens when the broken home pattern stretches across too many generations for there to be an older and more responsible and financially resourceful generation to step in and take on the adult responsibilities?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 22 05:20 PM 
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Peace Corps Volunteer Wallows In Guilt In Paraguay

Esther Katcoff joined the Peace Corps to go to Paraguay to escape her guilt and the guilt only got worse. To be clear: We taxpayers are funding guilt escape trips of liberals with a severe case of guilt. What are these guilt trippers doing? Nothing to address root causes of poverty.

I tell people I joined the Peace Corps to understand what it means to be poor, but that´s just part of the story. I joined the Peace Corps to figure out how to escape the guilt of having so much while other people have so little.

Well, now I'm in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and surprised to find that it was not the way to go for moral masturbation.

She's around people so poor that anything she does that is slightly selfish makes her feel even worse. But why the tendency to feel so guilty in the first place? Where's it coming from? Some genetic variant? Or liberal guilt indoctrination in college? Or what? The extreme guilt wallowers have emotional reactions that are very foreign to my way of thinking. Yet their guilty feelings are important because these feelings motivate political positions that are foolish and counterproductive.

A 9 year old girl named María wanted lunch from her. As you will find out from the article, María is one of 9 siblings. Hello?

My María. Her immune system, her literacy rate, her confidence level and her general growth rate all depended on me in that moment. I shared my pizza with her.

She ate every bite.

María's poor mom and dad made 9 babies even though they are poor. They would have more food per kid if they had fewer kids. Hey, so what would most help the poor people? Fewer babies.

How to lower fertility? Well, free birth control, training about using birth control, and a steady diet of propaganda aimed at dissuading people from having large families would certainly help. But something else might be even more effective: Watching soap operas lowers fertility. So free TVs, free cable subscriptions, and subsidies for the production of soap operas aimed at every poor group in their native language would cause a big drop in fertility. BTW, María's native language Guarani, not Spanish. So Guarani soap operas in Paraguay should be a Peace Corps priority.

What I've noticed about people who wallow in guilt: they don't address root causes. They tend to aim at short term pain relief, often at the expense of long term progress. Is it that their discount rates on their own pain relief are so high they've got to get action now in spite of the deleterious long term effects of what they advocate?

Was guilt always such a destructive force? When did it start to become a problem in politics? Maybe it was more adaptive on small family settings but causes maladaptive behavior in large organized industrialized societies. How can we cut the amount of guilt motive in modern politics?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 22 10:56 AM 
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2012 November 19 Monday
Free Online Textbooks

Wikipedia killed off many commercial encyclopedias. What's next? Can commercial textbooks survive competition from tree online textbooks?

What's controversial is how Boundless creates these texts. The company trawls for public material on sites like Wikipedia and then crafts it into online books whose chapters track closely to those of top-selling college titles. In April, Boundless was sued by several large publishers who accused the startup of engaging in "the business model of theft."

I was thinking what's needed are sites that enable skilled people to volunteer their time to contribute to the writing and editing of open source textbooks. But that seems like such an obvious idea that it seems like it ought to exist. Well, it does: wikibooks.org. But the coverage seems scant. They say they have 2,491 books with 44,430 pages. Well, that works out to about 18 pages per book. So a lot of these books are still skeletons. The site has a page that lists what they consider to be completed books. The site has quite a few science texts at various stages of development. The Wikipedia page on Wikibooks provides insights into its founding.

O'Reilly's Open Books effort is of interest as well.

I'm wondering whether a philanthropist could cheaply buy up rights to old out-of-print textbooks on basic unchanging subjects (e.g. calculus, linear algebra) and convert them to ebooks. The quality of the texts might be higher than what is currently available for free.

The larger context: take a look at inflation rates for various sectors of the economy since the year 2000. What has been going up fastest? College tuition has more than doubled since the year 2000 and shows no sign of slowing. Higher education needs a large dose of disruptive technological change. Open source books, online lectures, and online tests, are all needed to break the current burdensome business model of higher education.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 19 07:03 PM 
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2012 November 17 Saturday
Downshift In Productivity Growth: Why?

In his book Launching The Innovation Renaissance: A New Path To Bring Smart Ideas To Market Fast economist and Marginal Revolution blogger Alex Tabarrok explains by how much the rate of growth in labor productivity in the United States has slowed in the last few decades.

...if productivity had continued to grow along the 1947-1973 trend then wages today would be more than 50% higher than they are now. In terms of innovation, if productivity had continued to grow along the 1947-1973 trend then we would be living today in the world of 2076. The post-1973 period has been called the Great Stagnation.

Alex is referring to Tyler Cowen's book The Great Stagnation. Tyler's arguments are a subset of the various reasons I've presented here for why economic growth has slowed in the developed countries and why it will slow further.

Why is 1973 such a turning point? See figure 4 in Gail Tverberg's post on the future of oil production. Right around 1973 the rate of annual growth of world oil production downshifted from 7.9% to 4.0%. It has since gone thru 2 more downshifts to 1.3% in the early 1980s and then to 0.1% starting in 2005. Oil has become much more expensive to extract. Higher prices for oil have increased the cost of economic activity. That's a real limit to growth. Keep that in mind when reading about trends in living standards.

When oil prices rise due to slow oil production growth the market diverts more investments toward making more energy-efficient equipment. That diversion of investment causes slower growth in productivity. Economic growth slows because more innovation must go toward civilization maintenance. This means that the rate of innovation has not slowed by as much as the downshift in measured growth in labor productivity.

Jørgen Randers, in his book 2052 - A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, outlines a future where natural resource limitations and ecological problems cause living standards to decline in the developed countries. Greater competition for remaining resources is creating a zero sum game where Asian industrialization means lower living standards in the OECD countries. I realize the views of one of the original authors of The Limits To Growth are anathema to many who have great faith in the free market to solve all problems. But look around you. The world makes much greater use of market forces today than it did 50 years ago. Yet innovation is not keeping up with the rising demands on natural resources and declining concentrations and quality of remaining ores.

Alex Tabarrok suggests a number of policy innovations aimed at accelerating the rate of technological innovation. He makes very reasonable recommendations regarding patent policy (e.g. make patents last longer if the innovation costs are higher). But I'm skeptical of his ambition to raise American educational outcomes nearer to those of Germany. He's ignoring demographic problems that make that an unattainable goal. Also, while I strongly support the need for policy innovations to speed technological innovations at best I expect such policy innovations to reduce the slope of the coming economic decline.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 17 09:23 PM 
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Realistic Human Sexuality Discussions In Blog Comments

After decades of ideological (i.e. very delusional) rhetoric from tenured ideological feminists and feminist journalists about female sexuality a Heartiste post "Hot girl wants slut advice" elicits comments from female posters who still understand that female and male sexuality innately differ. Cynthia tries to talk sense to an 18 year old girl "Nad Z" who lost her virginity at age 15 to a guy she hit on at a concert.

Lost it to a guy twice your age, after you approached him. That’s not an accomplishment. At best, it’s sad. At worst, it’s dangerous.

My advice on not being a slut? You seem decently intelligent, so maybe this’ll mean something to you.

Embrace whatever anger you’re feeling from this comments section. Realize this kind of behavior will scar you in ways you can’t possibly understand yet at 18. Think about where you want to be in 15 years. Reconnect with your sense of shame. Find some humility in this fact – there’s a class of man out there that will bang anything that moves, no matter what it is or what it looks like, there’s no honor in being a woman who feeds that, and it says nothing about you but bad things. Disconnect from the “gender is socialized” BS that gets floated around online. Learn to find value in yourself beyond what you can do sexually, and take pride in yourself as a woman in other ways.

You can't get this sort of honest discussion by feminist writers on Salon or The Atlantic. Blog comments are the most honest venue for societal-wide discussion of what is true. The nation's leading commentators are useless for the most part. Our biggest social problems see far more intelligent and realistic discussion in the comments section of a pick-up artist blog than in the major liberal media outlets. Why? Because the mainstream mythologies about human nature have gotten too far from the truth.

Cynthia understands the mainstream messages women are told are not in their best interest.

Yes, the socialist deconstruction of Western society begins and ends with our sexual norms. Telling women that they can be “just like men” only turns them into unhappy, lonely, frustrated sluts. It’s sad, how many girls buy into these days. Even sadder how most never seem to understand how easy it would have been to avoid it.

Why I care: The decline of the family means more support for the welfare state. Single women vote for government as substitute husband and substitute father. Also, the decline of the family means more messed up adults who lived messed up childhoods. If the dumber single moms were selectively going for smart men to knock them up then it wouldn't be so bad. We'd get a long term benefit of smarter and more productive future generations. But I do not see signs that's happening.

Cynthia advocates letting go of the Narrative. Yes, take the red pill and look at life realistically.

I work in a male-dominated environment, I’ve lived outside the country, I’ve got plenty of aging female relatives to judge the failure of feminism against, and I’ve been watching my friends self-destruct around me since middle school. I’ve got a leg up on some women, sure, but it’s not difficult to see where all this shit leads. The evidence is clearly apparent to anybody willing to let go of the Narrative and think for themselves. The sad thing is, standing out from the crowd terrifies women at a primal level, and most will never dare challenge it.

We would have a better society if more people were willing to take the red pill on more topics. Less ideology. Less fantasy. Less delusion.

Spiralina comments "this ship has sailed already": She's right. Nad has already made her decision.

When I was 15 I was making up little dances and doing art projects with my equally young and virginal girlfriends. She was going to concert venues and asking men twice her age to tag team her.

Look at the facial piercings and Miley Cyrus hair, this ship has sailed already. She already knows she’s a slut. She just wants permission to be one, and also to get some attention in a public forum. Heartiste’s advice would be relevant to girls who are 1) actually hot, and 2) not already well down the slut path.

If more girls were like Spiralina I'd hold out some hope for stopping the decline of western civilization.

Cynthia sees the sexualization of female childhood as tragic. I think we need a pharmaceutical way to delay puberty and give kids time to grow up.

Ditto on the activities. Worst we were doing at 15 was watching Tom Cruise movies obsessively. And that was only a decade ago.

It’s really tragic how much of the female childhood experience has been removed (boys, on the other hand, are encouraged to be children until age 30 now). Pop culture firehoses little girls with sexuality now, instead of letting them mature at a decent pace. It’s tragic.

Spiralina understands why women shame slutty girls.

The difference is, women are shaming her from a twofold motivation. The first is from a natural motherly/sisterly desire to keep younger girls out of trouble. We’ve (or at least the luckier among us) known older women who stepped in to give us protection and guidance in ‘tough love’ style when we were young and dumb, and I believe it’s an instinctual female reaction. The second motivation is less altruistic; women participate in a fairly brutal form of social bullying/’slut shaming’ against other women who disrupt the social order by giving away sex for free, ultimately lowering the ‘price’ of female sexuality in the SMP. I elaborated on this in another comment. So the motivations are both selfless and selfish.

I can’t speak as clearly on the motivations of men since it’s outside my realm of experience, so I’ll defer to your explanation. I just thought they were reflexively angry because she didn’t fit their masturbatory fantasy of a ‘hot’ slutty 18-year-old girl.

Sounds like Cynthia is bi.

It’s cool to *claim* to be bi.

Most actual bisexuals really struggle with it. It’s probably the least supported part of the GLBT community – we ruin the Narrative. There’s very little acceptance for bisexual men in any way, from anyone. For women, well, lesbians are usually downright hostile, straight women aren’t in the dating pool, and it’s a kinky fantasy for straight men.

How to get a more realistic mainstream American culture? Do any Western countries have a more realistic mainstream discussion about human nature?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 17 04:32 PM 
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2012 November 15 Thursday
Liberal Policies To Cut Demand For Low Skilled Labor?

How to cut the demand for low skilled immigrant labor? The best policies to achieve this goal have to be policies that make sense to the political left because they can pass into law with support of Democrats. Obamacare provides an example of a policy that accidentally will cut demand for low skilled immigrant labor. Toward that end here are some proposals:

Raise the minimum wage. Employers will use less low skilled labor overall. Plus, they'll favor citizens because they won't save money by hiring illegals.

Help unions organize industries that employ lots of illegal aliens. Unions will keep out competition.

Credential requirements for more occupations, especially occupations that employ lots of illegals. It is easier to get certified for an occupation if you are already here and speak good English.

Stronger racial preferences for blacks in lower paid occupations. Given them a competitive advantage against illegal aliens.

Can you think of any additional liberal ideas for how to cut demand for low-skilled illegal immigrant labor?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 15 07:52 PM 
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2012 November 12 Monday
Obamacare Will Raise Immigrant Quality

Papa Johns pizza chain CEO John Schnatter is unhappy with how much Obamacare will cost his company. But there are two big silver linings.

He estimates that Obamacare will end up costing his company $5-8 million annually. The issue: the Affordable Care Act dictates that full-time employees (30 hours or more per week) at companies with more than 50 workers need to be provided health insurance. Schnatter has further claimed that some employers will cut employee hours to avoid providing them with healthcare.

My contrarian take (that has only just now occurred to me): Obamacare will accelerate the automation of low skilled jobs. This could deliver a big net benefit, especially on immigration.

Obamacare amounts to a government-mandated increase in wages for lower paid workers. Doesn't hit highly paid workers who get medical benefits already. It is like a minimum wage increase but hits a lot more workers and employees. It most increases the cost of employing minimum wage workers because employers can't forgo wage increases to pay for the medical benefits.

By driving up wages Obamacare provides a big incentive for the Papa Johns, the Dominoes, and McDonalds operators to install customer-operated ordering panels and automated machines for making pizzas and burgers. This will of course drive up unemployment of the least skilled. But that's a feature. It will keep out less skilled immigrants and raise the average skill level of immigrants. How cool is that?

The second silver lining: since more people will get medical insurance from their employer fewer will demand Medicaid treatment. That's cool too.

Higher manual labor costs will also accelerate the development of technologies that will raise productivity in the medium and long term. So there's a third added benefit to Obamacare.

My biggest complaint about Obamacare: It doesn't raise labor costs enough. We need to tack another $5 per hour onto minimum wage jobs. We need a higher minimum wage. This should be an urgent priority for the Republican Party. With both parties supporting this improvement to the American labor pool it could pass into law quickly.

Republicans need to drop their opposition to minimum wage increases and mandated benefits for low skilled workers. These are the sorts of policies that can shift America's demographic path onto a more favorable direction.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 12 08:06 PM 
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2012 November 11 Sunday
Obamacare vs Medicaid vs Medicare

The last hurrah: Avik Roy makes a great point: Obama's victory ensures the survival of Obamacare and therefore heightens the conflict between demographic factions over entitlements. America's building fiscal crisis ensures this is the last major entitlement enacted. The battle for funds between the existing major entitlements programs and Obamacare might turn the elderly into losers on entitlements.

But we know something else: that America’s unsustainable fiscal situation means that Obamacare is destined to be the last major entitlement enacted by the United States. Indeed, Obamacare’s victory sets off a stiff competition for taxpayer dollars between Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. It’s a battle that the elderly, in particular, are likely to lose.

Click thru to read Roy's details on the numbers of people and dollars involved in each program. His article on why Obamacare will increase individual health insurance premiums bears reading as well. Practical advice: be prepared to pay cash out-of-pocket in your old age to get advice from the best medical specialists. More doctors will drop Medicare as Medicare payments to doctors go down.

America's list of unsustainable trends is growing. That Obamacare was passed even in the face of existing and projected huge budget deficits is a source of amazement for me. I fear the growing political power of the growing lower classes is going to keep the US on course for financial crisis.

So we've hit the high point in entitlements programs creation. We still haven't hit the high point in entitlements spending. We are probably about two recessions away from that.

Similarly, the last 20 years of US military adventurism after the collapse of the Soviet Union is probably another high point in US intervention abroad. Our worsening demographics as the baby boomers retire, the coming decline in world oil production, rising Asian demand for limited natural resources, and the resulting financial crisis will assure cutbacks at home and abroad.

The ship is dragging an anchor that is growing in size every day. Expect higher taxes, lower benefits, and continued deepening of cleavages between political factions.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 11 08:54 PM 
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Republicans And Democrats Defeated Republicans

Republicans aligned with the Democrats to defeat the Republicans via immigration. So both the Republicans and Democrats can declare victory for the Republican defeat.

What else was defeated: the republic.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 11 11:55 AM 
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More Chinese Work Abroad

A New York Times article looks at the trend for more professional Chinese to seek to work abroad even as living standards rise in China.

A manager based in Shanghai at an engineering company, who asked not to be named, said he invested earlier this year in a New York City real estate project in hopes of eventually securing a green card. A sharp-tongued blogger on current events as well, he said he has been visited by local public security officials, hastening his desire for a United States passport.

“A green card is a feeling of safety,” the manager said. “The system here isn’t stable and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I want to see how things turn out here over the next few years.”

While some cite political fears is that really a big incentive? If living standards in Western countries were the same how many would still leave?

What I'm trying to understand: Is there a big potential market for better governments? Is there some way to organize some of the smartest professionals to funnel into a few smaller countries in such large numbers that they could politically dominate them?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 11 10:53 AM 
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Florida Plan To Charge STEM Majors Less For Courses

The idea: lower tuition for college majors that deliver bigger economic benefit. Why stop there? Shut down the victims studies departments too.

Down in Florida, a task force commissioned by Governor Rick Scott is putting the finishing touches on a proposal that would allow the state's public universities to start charging undergraduates different tuition rates depending on their major. Students would get discounts for studying topics thought to be in high demand among Florida employers. Those would likely include science, technology, engineering, and math (aka, the STEM fields), among others. 

The public benefits if someone becomes an engineer, earns a high salary, pays lots in taxes, and makes goods and services that improve the quality of life for the rest of us. The public does not benefit if someone does a victim studies major, becomes a social worker, and generates more costs for the welfare state than they pay in taxes.

Journalist Jordan Weissman tries to spin this Florida proposal as a bad idea. But get real: unemployment rate per degree tell us nothing about how much money and useful goods and services people are making.

In a January report, for instance, the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce found that journalism degree holders between the ages of 22 and 26 actually had a lower national unemployment rate than young mechanical engineers -- 7.7 percent versus 8.6 percent. Economics graduates had about the same rate as english literature BA's -- 9.1. percent versus 9.2 percent. And kids with computer science degrees were actually a bit behind their peers who studied communications -- 7.8 percent to 7.4 percent. 

Computer software developers are doing work that raises productivity. We need a lot of scientific and technological progress just to maintain our current standards of living. People who do a victim studies major or art history or English do not train themselves to make needed scientific or technological advances. Society gets a much bigger return from people who study STEM subjects. To the extent that the taxpayers are made to pay for higher education their tax dollars should more to the majors that deliver the most benefit.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 11 10:23 AM 
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2012 November 10 Saturday
UK Selectively Enforcing Right To Not Be Offended

Brits are being arrested, and some even jailed, for what they say on Facebook and Twitter.

One man angry about the war in Afghanistan was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service for declaring on Facebook that "all soldiers should die and go to hell." Police also went knocking on the door of a 17-year-old boy who tweeted an insulting message to Olympic diver Tom Daley, saying that he had let down his dead father by failing to win a gold medal. He was arrested, but released and given a warning.

In the United States speech restrictions are big on campus and demonstrate how America's Left would like to cut back freedom of speech. I suspect that the electorate is going to swing so far left that future left wing presidents will appoint Supreme Court justices that will eviscerate speech rights of people with rightward-leaning views. Basically, some ways of thinking will become criminalized.

The right to not be offended will be enforced selectively against those who hold heterodox views that elites have delegitimized.

Beyond the law, some observers also detect something deeper at work in British society, what Hughes calls "the beginning of a culture of people thinking they have a right not to be offended."

I figure my publicly stated beliefs might eventually land me in jail if I live long enough.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 10 01:05 PM 
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2012 November 07 Wednesday
Heather Mac Donald: Romney Avoided Entitlements Problem

The election was not usefully educational for the ignorant and short-sighted masses. Before the recent US election Heather Mac Donald offered a pre-mortem on the Republican failure to address the biggest problems facing the nation. She left out a few. Our drags on the economy are many and growing.

This should have been a campaign fanatically focused on the unsustainable growth in entitlement obligations, government spending, and debt, all of which are drags on the economy, and yet, astoundingly, even after the promising selection of one of the most eloquent analysts of the federal budget as VP nominee, the Romney campaign avoided any serious discussion of entitlement reform. Perhaps it is naïve to expect otherwise in a democracy, but I think that there is real value in an electoral mandate. If Romney didn’t have the guts to speak forcefully and honestly about the hard budget choices that will need to be made, and assuming that that reluctance stemmed from his pollsters accurately reading the national will, we’re in big trouble.

I wish we could have a parallel universe where Romney would have been totally blunt and honest to see how the American electorate would have responded. My guess is he would have gotten fewer votes but enabled a more honest discussion of our financial problems in future years.

My take on fights over current era elections: The larger battle has already been lost on numerous fronts. Now we are arguing about policies that will impact the rate of decline. No way are we going to do such a radical shift in policies to reverse the decline. We are living in too big of an overshoot with too deluded a populace for radical changes to be possible. We are in financial overshoot with unpayable entitlements and unsustainable debt build-up. Many demographic changes ensure that overshoot will continue. For example, with the rise in illegitimate births and the delay in marriage many more women will vote for government as substitute husband and provider. Hard headed reason has gone out the window.

We are also in environmental overshoot and natural resources overshoot. Back in the 1970s the debates over population growth, resource usage, and related topics were the right debates to have. But the realists lost and America and the rest of the world continued on their unsustainable paths. To even have a debate about population growth is no longer acceptable in the mainstream. The folly of the marginalization of the realists is going to become painfully apparent in the coming decades.

Economic growth has become harder to do. It will become harder still. The big decline in median household income is a sign of worse times to come. We can not afford our current living standards.

Headed into this new era we can expect the US government to become more harmful to the economy. Labor laws will become bigger drags on the ability of US companies to compete. A US Supreme Court dominated by the Left is now inevitable as Republicans start losing most Presidential elections. Racial preferences won't die out. They'll grow. More highly productive people will be better off in smaller companies than would otherwise be the case because the large companies will have stronger legal mandates to discriminate against the most productive.

I keep hoping for a refuge to emerge. The larger companies might therefore try to set up brain center operations in small countries set up to pull in brains from around the world. I'm looking for signs that some countries will take on that specialization. Singapore seems a likely candidate. But to scale to the level big corps need a country with good weather in the 10-20 million population range would need to shift toward allowing very high IQ immigrants and only very high IQ immigrants. I do not see an obvious candidate.

America's decline could be slowed by a change in the voting franchise to restrict it to smarter people. But such a change has little chance of happening. Therefore we should look elsewhere for signs that some nations will adopt more realistic policies about what matters in the 21st century: brains and natural resources. The American myth of exceptionalism is going to have to die and the geneticists are going to have to present us with a much more detailed understanding of brain genetics before we will have any chance of turning our demographics from our current destructive path. The odds of turning toward a physically more sustainable path seems even less likely. The competition for remaining depleting resources will intensify.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 07 08:18 PM 
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2012 November 06 Tuesday
Convictonomics: Revoke Citizenship And Deport Criminals

Writing for Wired David Wolman advocates for a rational economic approach to deciding how long to lock up criminals. He does not go nearly far enough. Rather than release criminals because they cost too much to look up I say we should think more outside the box and move criminals off our books. What the British did with criminals sent to early Australia serves as a useful template.

Our criminal justice system is a disaster. The incarceration rate in the US quadrupled between 1980 and 2000. It now costs more than $70 billion a year to keep 7 million people behind bars, on parole, or on probation.

Reality check: Is $70 billion a lot of money? The US economy is about $15 trillion for GDP. Well, incarceration and other controls on felons cost us less than one half of one percent of GDP per year. We spend over 10 time as much on defense spending. Even that is probably an underestimate since a lot of national security spending is spread over different budgets to hide its scale. Since criminals are a greater threat than other nations it seems clear that we should shift spending from defense to criminal control.

Convictonomics: Good idea. But we need a non-wimpy approach.

What we need is convictonomics: a coldly rational economics-based approach to crime and punishment.

What would a non-wimpy approach to convictonomics look like? We'd seek to shift the cost of dealing with criminals onto the criminals. How? Create separate countries for criminals and deport criminals to those countries. Get criminals off our books. We do not need them in civilized society. Strip them of citizenship and send them to different countries ranked by the threat they pose.

How to create countries for criminals? Buy up islands and pay smaller populations to move elsewhere. Then put the criminals on those islands. This could even be done with the Alaskan Aleutian islands.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 06 08:40 PM 
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Loyal Party Voters Doing Themselves A Disservice?

Noah Millman thinks blacks and Hispanics should court the Republican Party. Question: Do the leaders of the two major US parties really hurt their bases much to help the middle? If they do, then do they really have a choice in the matter?

In my view, the fact that black and Hispanic voters overwhelmingly prefer the Democratic party hurts black and Hispanic voters more than it hurts the Republicans. Republicans don’t need to court these voters – these voters need to court the Republican Party. The fact that highly religious white voters overwhelmingly prefer the Republican party hurts highly religious white voters more than it hurts the Democrats. The Democrats don’t need to court these voters – these voters need to court the Democratic Party. And polarization on the basis of identity hurts the country more than it hurts either party.

I do not get Noah's reasoning. Why should voters court the other party when the other party has a large vested interest in opposing what they want? I mean, people solidly in one party want thinks that are the other party is deeply opposed to. For example, would the Democrats offer the Christians that secular Democrats would find agreeable to offer them?

What's more important here: America's demographics are changing in ways that deepen polarization by identity. If we had fewer identities then people would vote on other issues. A homogeneous society can debate other issues. A very heterogeneous society is going to split on identifies. This is one reason why immigration policy over the last 40 or so years has been such a bad set of ideas. Too late now. The divisions will deepen.

My guess: the base of each party should become even more demanding. Each party still has primaries. The bases can fight out issues with each other in primaries so ensure that candidates that advance to the general election will be sure to deliver for their bases.

The Republican Party is on the losing side in demographic battles. If any base should try to appeal to the opposing party maybe it makes more sense for Republicans to reach out to the Democrats. Republicans fought for the demographic victory of the Democrats and succeeded. With two parties united in fighting for the interests of the Democrat politicians it is not surprising that together the Republicans and Democrats delivered the Democrats a resounding demographic victory. How to move on from here?

At this point the base of the Republican Party needs to figure out how to respond to their demographic defeat. Should a very large fraction of them move en masse to the Democratic Party as a way to have a say in the governing coalition? Our should they try to encourage more white defections from the Democrats? Even if they try to do the latter and succeed isn't that success only going to work for a decade or two at best?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 06 07:53 PM 
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2012 November 04 Sunday
Razib Khan: Diminishing Marginal Returns From Social Liberalism

Razib Khan sees diminishing marginal returns from modern social liberalism. I think the returns are already negative and have been for some time.

Rather than a coldly elucidated set of principles in a Benthamite fashion modern social liberalism is fundamentally a movement of justice rooted in feeling. That everyone get a fair-go, that everyone can engage in their own personal project of self-actualization. But at some point this universal principle is going to hit diminishing marginal returns. In the 19th and early 20th century progressives argued for women’s suffrage. About half of the population. In the 1960s in the USA they argued for civil rights for racial minorities, and blacks in particular. On the order of 10 percent of the population of the day in the United States. Over the past generation they have argued for civil rights for homosexuals who identify as gay or lesbian. Being generous, this is probably on the order of 5 percent of the population (I am willing to accept the proposition that the self-identified ~2 percent value may be an underestimate).

Razib argues that modern social liberalism is running out of people to uplift. I would add that the amount of discrimination liberals are trying to stop per person has gotten much lower as well. The liberals need to help the transgendered more than the transgendered need to be helped for example. There's nothing like Jim Crow around and liberals are scraping to bottom of the barrel in trying to help victim groups. In the process they've created a legal system and tax system that are victimizing the productive.

In my view liberals need to become more like Benthamite utilitarians (though not like Panglossian libertarian Benthamites who exaggerate benefits and ignore costs) because liberalism has let lose social changes that cause large and growing external costs. A more utilitarian approach is also necessary because at the same time, we've got other forces at work which are raising the costs of maintaining civilization.

I question our ability to maintain a rate of innovation high enough to cancel out the rising costs of maintaining civilization. We've got natural resource, demographic, and other trends which are not sustainable. Liberals need to get over their belief that more personal freedom and social programs (e.g. education which has declining and probably negative marginal returns at this point) will lead to a better future. We can't afford these delusions any longer.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 04 09:02 PM 
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Major Medical Conditions Lock People Into Jobs

How would you like to find yourself locked into your current job because you developed a major medical problem? That would be an added burden on top of the illness and really limit one's life choices.

Richmond, Va. – (November 1, 2012) – Men with employment-contingent health insurance (ECHI) who suffer a health shock, such as a cancer diagnosis or hospitalization, are more likely to feel "locked" into remaining at work and are at greater risk for losing their insurance during this critical time as compared to men who are on their spouse's insurance plan or on private insurance plans, according to a new study by Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center.

Published in the International Journal of Health Care and Economics, the study was led by Cathy J. Bradley, M.P.A, Ph.D., RGC Professor for Cancer Research and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control program at VCU Massey Cancer Center and chair of the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research at VCU School of Medicine. The researchers used the Health and Retirement Study surveys (conducted every two years by the University of Michigan of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50) from 1996 through 2008 to observe employment and health insurance status among 1,582 men. They focused on the individuals who participated in the interviews two years apart and whether a health shock occurred in the intervening period between the interviews. The results shed light on potential benefits and drawbacks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

I go years without getting so much as cold virus. But lately I've been thinking I ought to buy some long term high deductible insurance for major medical problems (assuming such medical policies exist). I think of it as insurance aimed at ensuring one can leave one's current job should one get a serious disease. Anyone done this?

The fact that employers can buy medical insurance in pre-tax dollars but individuals can't seems like a major wrong in US tax law.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 04 07:37 PM 
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2012 November 03 Saturday
Alex Tabarrok: A Bet is a Tax on Bullshit

Alex Tabarrok is sick of pundits who make ridiculous predictions that they aren't held accountable for. He suggests systems where

In fact, the NYTimes should require that Silver, and other pundits, bet their beliefs.


Overall, I am for betting because I am against bullshit. Bullshit is polluting our discourse and drowning the facts. A bet costs the bullshitter more than the non-bullshitter so the willingness to bet signals honest belief. A bet is a tax on bullshit; and it is a just tax, tribute paid by the bullshitters to those with genuine knowledge.

What we need even more: track records of pundit predictions. We really need to know who is right much more than 50% of the time. That way we'd know who to listen to. A betting system would help to do this. But even without cash involved if pundit predictions were recorded and checked we'd be better off.

By Randall Parker 2012 November 03 08:59 PM 
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2012 November 01 Thursday
Religiously Affiliated Youth Go Farther In School

Think religious people are more ignorant? Nope. Religion is the path to higher education.

Sociologists from Brigham Young University and Rice University found religiously-affiliated youth are 40 percent more likely to graduate high school than their unaffiliated peers and 70 percent more likely to enroll in college.

The researchers note that teens’ fellow church-goers are an important factor, serving as mentors who help teens set their sights high.

Will future generations be less religious because more educated people have fewer kids? Or will the more educated become more religious as higher IQ people with religious beliefs make more babies than higher IQ people without faith? What's getting selected for and against?

By Randall Parker 2012 November 01 09:44 PM 
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