November 2009


Karl Smith’s Modeled Behavior (not to be confused with Offsetting Behaviour) is a good economics blog, but underread despite incoming links from big names. While he’s taken time out to note his indignation over ClimateGate, the demands of his actual job have led him to invite Adam Ozimek to cover for him. A good choice, I say. He’s been cranking out a good number of high quality posts. Readers are invited to check it out.

Scott Sumner will not be so new a name. His blog had been silent since the 18th of this month, but when I checked it out this morning he had tossed of eight posts! The one I linked to is small enough to fit entirely in my browser screen, but the other seven aren’t. The man is an animal.

Mtraven posted an appreciation for Phil Agre. In addition to some techie stuff, he also wrote political tracts like What is Conservatism and What is Wrong With It? Mtraven had referenced that work before and I checked it out again to refresh my memory a tad. My verdict was not good. I wrote the following:

I couldn’t get past where he said conservatism was incompatible with civilization. He had just stated that the Egyptians and Romans were characterized by conservatism, and they’re prototypical civilizations. The thing about conservatism having to re-invent itself each generation makes sense in the current context, saying that it’s about aristocracy doesn’t.

Mtraven responded:

Agre’s Conservatism essay does go a bit overboard in my opinion in projecting the current split between conservatives and democrats back through thousands of years of history. If I had to guess, when he said that conservatism is “incompatible with civilization” he meant that it’s incompatible with the sort we would like to have, one that is dynamic, innovative, at least somewhat rational.
When reading that (or anything outside your comfort zone) I suggest not getting hung up on individual assertions and trying to imagine the sort of world the author is trying to convey. That’s a trick I may have learned from Phil, now that I think about it.

I rejoindered:

Mencius Moldbug has quite an imagination and writing talent to convey it. His individual assertions are often contradictory or just false. That trait indicates to me a sort of performance art rather than dedication to truth. When Bryan Caplan argues that other famous philosophers were just as bad as Rand, I don’t take that to indicate that I should give Rand a chance. It tells me to discount the rest of them along with her.

I should have referenced the assertion from the calculation debate that “socialism/central planning is impossible”, where “impossible” was transformed by Boettke into meaning “won’t produce the prosperity sought by socialists”.

What does everyone else think?

It’s unfortunate that after finally getting a blog, Jeffrey Friedman’s Causes of the Crisis has been updated so infrequently. I was visiting it to argue a point against Russ Roberts when I noticed a new post on Peter Wallison. Don’t be scared by the link to AEI, a lot of it is pretty good. I don’t agree that government was responsible for all the demand side problems, but his explanation of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (and exactly what it changed from Glass-Steagall) is worth hearing. He also gives a good case study with Lehman Brothers on the effect of a CDS guarantor going bust. I’d heard similar stuff from Charles Davi, but this was less theoretical and showed its relative size when the crash occurred.

It’s old news, but if you share Matt Taibbi’s fear of naked short selling, John Carney (who I also think is wrong about the CRA) gives a good explanation for the layman.

I’ve mentioned him a number of times here, usually in a favorable light. Via Ben Casnocha I found this page with a heaping of Nassim Taleb flavored critique. I haven’t had time to read much of any of it yet, but decided promptness of output was the better part of blogging valor.

I promised I would replace the image files in my demographic transition post with html tables, and now I’ve followed through. My program didn’t generate the whole table, I just copied all the rows with numbers into a text file and then turned them into html rows which I could stick in a table. The table structure those rows sit in was made by hand, as were the rows not containing numbers. I also had to remove all the superscripts, since they were screwing things up. My code is below. (more…)

Have you tried it yet? Take a YouTube video and turn it into an mp3.

I’ve already done so with a lecture by behavioral economist and game theorist Herbert Gintis. Gintis has some great data on the more reliably altruistic behavior of non-western tribes (tribes, mind you), but also their dark side, as expressed by ‘strong reciprocity,’ or the tendency to take revenge for perceived injustice often at great personal cost. From what I can infer, western individuals will more often act narrowly self-interested in anonymous (because anonymity is even possible?) trade experiments, but also abstain from a downward of spiral of tit-for-tat vengeance behaviors.

I’ve also been able to add poorly executed yet charming African-cum-Australian hip hop by a fella named “Bangs” to my generic mp3 player with the help of Dirpy. (He only wishes to take his lady to the movies and feed her popcorn, likely the coolest thing one can possibly do on a date in Sudan…but not Australia; then again he’s only 19.)

Randy Barnett gently ribs his co-blogger for his penchant for providing open threads on a topic when others (Barnett himself, David Bernstein, Jim Lindgren and I think sometimes Eric Posner) close comments on a controversial topic. As a commenter on Barnett’s post points out, even in threads started by others Orin is more willing to engage the commenters. I’m not going to bother insisting that other bloggers do so, there are other things they can do with their time (I forgot to check back in at a thread at the Bloggingheads forum where I kicked things off, appropriately enough for this post, on the subject of censoring comments). Not so for closing comments. I don’t understand how a troll or spam filled comment section is worse than no comment section at all unless the real objection is the easier airing of criticism. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Orin’s post tend to be more thoughtful than those without comment sections.

It’s quite possible I’ve made an earlier post/s promoting this norm and even specifically referencing the Volokh Conspiracy. Another blog norm I don’t think I’ve highlighted here before is that of linking directly to pieces on the web you are referring to.

As long as I’m taking about V.C comments, a Chester A. Arthur “dualer” (don’t call us “birthers”!) gives a hilarious example of cui bono reasoning.

I’ve been sitting on “A Farewell to Alms” for a few days after seeing a footnoted claim that I knew I’d have to look into and most likely write a post on. The note is in chapter 14 where Clark writes “And now the rich in England have fewer children than the poor, so if children are to be counted a blessing and not a burden the advantage now lies with the poor (though in some other advanced economies there is no difference between rich and poor in this respect).19” From the accounts I had usually heard, the demographic transition was supposed to be a universal phenomenon and that would over time engulf even the currently developing world. So what is Clark citing? Nicola Dickmann, 2003. “Fertility and Family Income on the Move: An International Comparison over 20 Years.” Dickmann acknowledges that lower income families did have more children back in the 80s, but this gap seems to have narrowed in more recent years. I should note that her method was to look at data for married couples (completely ignoring single mothers) within a certain age range in the USA, Germany, Canada, U.K, Finland and Sweden. The correlation between income and family size (and statistical significance) was generally small. It was positive in the last two and negative in the rest. I wouldn’t say it completely upends conventional wisdom, but it’s definitely something to consider. Two relevant EconLog posts are The Decline of the Rabbit Strategy and Kids, Opera, and Local Status. A recent OB post somewhat relevant, Humans Are Evolving. A lot of people may not bother clicking through to read the pdf, so tomorrow I think I’ll copy some of the tables into html below. UPDATE: Transcribing all the data got to be a chore, so I’ll just put up some images. The rules for transforming the text I can copy is pretty simple so next weekend if I’m not busy I’ll try to learn python and then replace it with html. UPDATE2: Done. I couldn’t completely automate everything. I’ll put up the code in a later post.

Some unrelated notes. For anyone wondering when I’ll start twittering, don’t hold your breath. I never update my facebook status (or bother logging on most of the time) because nothing happens worth talking about. If I have something to say, I’ll blog it. Maybe if I read twitter my eyes would open up to the possibilities, but I don’t. Also, Against Politics once hosted Richard A. Garner’s “If Hobbes Is Right, Then He Is Wrong”. After the site went down, google only turned up other sites giving that bad link. After bugging Aschwin about it, he restored it. Enjoy. (more…)

Don’t buy the Roissysphere’s B.S, unmarried women aged 25 to 45 are five times more likely to be virgins if they have a college degree than otherwise (yeah, yeah, correlation isn’t causation Mr. Muslim). I hope the National Survey on Family Growth is freely accessible online, but I’m too lazy to check it out till tomorrow.
UPDATE: You have to pay to get the CD-ROMs. Each year’s survey runs about 300 or so bucks.

This post’s title from an album the Irish program at my local jazz station has been promoting.

Some years back when I watched Saturday Night Live regularly, and everyone complained about how much better it was when Chris Farley/Mike Myers/Eddie Murphy/Bill Murray was on the show, one of the writers appeared on Weekend Update (no, not Tina Fey) to point out an anomaly. He was the only Jew on the comedy team, which he explained was like an NBA team with just one black dude. The list of other names sounded more like a St. Patrick’s day arrest lineup.

Listening to the Greg Cochran interview I recently linked, the point he made about the Irish getting mixed up with everyone else on earth set some gears in motion that hadn’t clicked before. Brad Delong & Paul Krugman have been complaining about the decline of the Chicago School recently, and even Chicago-educated quasi-monetarist Scott Sumner agrees. The modern Chicago school is represented by the likes of John Cochrane, Kevin Murphy and Casey Mulligan (at least they aren’t Ed Prescott, whose surname is more Anglo) together with the odd Huizingas and Zingales. Hmm. The old Chicago school (alright, not the Old Chicago school of Knight & Viner) was represented by the likes of George Stigler, Milton Friedman, Gary Becker and Julian Simon. Brian Doherty noted how so many of the founders of the modern libertarian movement were Jewish in Radicals for Capitalism, and Half Sigma just made the same point recently. I brought up a similar point at his blog in defense of Austrian economics when he tried to associate it with anti-semitism, and he replied that the people I listed were either dead or very old.

Is there any point to my rambling? SNL, as well as the Chicago and Austrian schools have all seen better days, and in those days seemed more Jewish than they are now. Might we theorize that the ethnic composition of an intellectual enterprise shifting from Jewish to Irish is akin to rats leaving a sinking ship?

For those wondering about Armenians, Armen Alchian of the Chicagoite colony at UCLA is matched today by Lee Ohanian (damn, just an apostrophe away from Irish!). While Alchian worked with Harold Demsetz, Ohanian writes with Harold Cole, another Anglo surname. Daron Acemoglu was born in Turkey but is ethnically Armenian and teaches at the Salt Pole university MIT. Economists in America are increasingly foreign, which may make my hypothesis less and less relevant as time goes on. Among those extra-ethnic economists is Narayana Kocherlakota, who might suggest that I have no idea what I’m talking about.

The internet is turning us into impatient & whimsical consumers of bite-sized information. Even reactionary bloggers exploit the form. In an odd coincidence, around the same time two exemplars of the form deviated away from it toward extended essays summarizing ideas they have usually put forward in snappy mockery. They are Deogolwulf at The Joy of Curmudgeonry with How to Commit Genocide and Ilkka Kokkarinen at The Fourth Checkraise with In Praise of Learning. I could be rude and say “Don’t quit your day non-job” (I guess I just did), but I’d like to give kudos for putting them together.

Why hadn’t I heard of this until I checked out his Wikipedia page recently? It’s with Marshall Poe of New Books in History.

At the very end Greg mentions what he’s working on now (“then” more accurately, as it was recorded in March): a paper on cystic fibrosis.

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