Assorted links

by on March 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The culture that is China.

2. Who’s afraid of development?

3. The world’s fastest reader?

4. Markets in everything homeless hot spots.

5. Economic origins of the Sicilian Mafia.

6. A new study of RomneyCare and health outcomes.  I have yet to read the paper.

Colin March 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Paid employment to homeless people who seem to be thankful for the work=exploitation. Right.

Chuck Rudd March 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

3. What’s a good technique to learn how to improve reading speed? Tyler? anyone? I can’t trust anything that comes through the internet or Youtube on this.

Varun March 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Read a lot of science fiction interspersed with classic literature between the ages of 10 and 17. Russian authors are particularly good for both.

Hasdrubal March 13, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I did exactly that. Heinlein, Asimov, Laumer, David Drake, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Hemmingway…

Didn’t work for me, I still read slowly.

Oliver March 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Better books.

Ronald Brak March 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

A lot of people are taught to read one word at a time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when learning, but a lot of people end up thinking that a word at a time is the only way to read. Maybe this is what’s slowing you down. To get out of this habit, what works for some people is to cut a hole in a piece of paper so you can only see a few lines of text at once. Then glance at the text and immediately look away. Don’t ‘read’ it just let the image of the text tumble into your head and let your brain try to make some sense of it. Then continue, glancing at a small chunk of text at a time. Eventually, hopefully, you can train your eyes to take in a chunk of text at once and let your brain process it for meaning.

Of course, sleeping well, eating well, and getting some exercise will all help with the speed you can comprehend things.

Note I’m definitely not an expert in this field, but then the people who claim to be experts often aren’t either, so I guess this advice is worth at least what you paid for it.

Mark Thorson March 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Read only the first sentence of each paragraph.

Yancey Ward March 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Read only the first word of the first sentence.

Rahul March 14, 2012 at 2:36 am

It boils down to what’s your definition of reading a lot. Some people can “scan” documents quickly, others are meticulous readers. I wonder how many of these “fast reader” reports control for these things.

JWatts March 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I took a self directed speed reading course 25 years ago at my high school. It was reasonably effective. Essentially it boiled down to glancing at half of each line of text. First left, then right and then continuing down the page. Each lesson built on the next with reading comprehension tests after each lesson. My reading comprehension dropped off somewhat, but the word rate went through the roof. From roughly 1 minute per page to 10-15 seconds per page.

However, I don’t enjoy reading that way and seldom use it. It’s very mechanical and while I understand the material the continuous analysis about what I’m reading is suppressed. My comprehension drops a little, my critical analysis drops a lot and enjoyment is nill.

Floccina March 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm
Varun March 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Let me attempt a less obnoxious reply -

The key to speed reading like the key to most skills is motivated practice. You need to read a lot of books where your primary motivation is to find out what happens next, and to capture salient details without needing to or wanting to linger on pretty sentences. Genre fiction is great for this. Reading when you are younger, and more likely to be immersed in genre fiction also helps!

Urso March 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I read significantly more slowly than I did when I was younger. I used to read as you describe; to find out what happens next and subconsciously filter out “filler.” Law school broke me of that habit and now I have no choice but to pore over every word in whatever I’m reading.

AnotherTom March 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I have the ability to slow myself down when I read professionally but still can read very quickly when absolutely perfect comprehension of every page is less of a priority.

Dan Weber March 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

When I’m reading a fiction book I really love, I savor it. Sometimes I purposefully slow down just to enjoy it that much more.

JohnGalt March 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Ezra Klein’s breathless happiness at a paper showing Romneycare works states that the most important metric is making people healthier.

NO!

The important metric is whether it’s making people healthier at reasonable costs to their wallets and their freedom.

Two additional matters leftists like Klein don’t like to ever consider (unless it’s sticking the word “affordable” into their government takeover act).

dead serious March 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I’d like to be able to pay for only the military protection I deem necessary for my well-being at reasonable cost so I can maximize my freedom.

Let me know how I can do that and I’ll start taking you seriously.

return March 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm

In terms of public goods, health care is not the same as defense

Andrew' March 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm

“Let me know how I can do that…”

Vote for Ron Paul.

dead serious March 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I strongly suspect that my vote for President has zero impact on where my federal tax dollars will go.

But I’d far rather them go to healthcare than toward feeding a bloated, irrelevant military industry that does me no good.

Ranjit Suresh March 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm

You’re right. Health care is more important – in a world in which the U.S. faces no military peer competitors.

I don’t agree with Obamacare, but the libertarian position will only gain traction among non-libertarians on consequentalist grounds, such as those Friedman typically made, not by arguing that its worse injustice to be forced to help other people live longer and make less money than to keep all your money and allow other people to die sooner.

Hasdrubal March 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Benefits are only one part of the analysis, costs are the other. If all we cared about were health outcomes, everyone would live in their own hermetically sealed, impact resistant bubble.

From what I understand, the costs of Romneycare are pretty high. It’s great to hear that there are positive benefits, but are they worth the price being paid?

JWatts March 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Defense is a Constitutional fundamental requirement of the Federal Government. Health care is not. The two types of spending are not comparable and your desires do not override the Constitution.

JonF March 14, 2012 at 7:57 pm

You are right that the Constitution charges the Federal government with defense, but that does not mean that the government does not have other duties as well. And with healthcare there is a moral imperative at least as significant as that behind defense.

JonF March 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm

The MA healthcare system is seeing insurance premiums rise at a rate LESS than the average for the whole country, so it would appear to be doing a good (or at least decent) job on the cost front too.

mark March 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm

SInce you follow developments in Greece, thought you might get a kick out of the announcement that the Bank of Greece will be distributing a two euro coin commemorating a decade of the Euro.

http://www.athensnews.gr/portal/1/54026

Barkley Rosser March 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm

What? The world’s fastest reader is not Tyler Cowen? This is truly shocking.

As for the Sicilian mafia, the link looks reasonable, but it should also be kept in mind that the romantic story about the origins of the Sicilian mafia (and its cousins in other parts of southern Italy) is that it arose as an organization to defend the peasants from impositions by the absolutist ruling Spanish during an earlier period.

Yancey Ward March 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I agree. Tyler has read books that haven’t even been written yet.

Ray Lopez March 13, 2012 at 11:45 pm

The “romantic story” has been debunked as legend since studies have shown the mafia arouse around the time of modern Italy, in the 19th century, not before.

CG March 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm

#3 – reminds me of Woody Allen – “I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

Willitts March 13, 2012 at 10:09 pm

A Russian war and….something else. I forget.

So Much For Subtlety March 13, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I wonder how a Western TV show that interviewed Death Row inmates would go down. I suspect it would cause a massive leap in support for the death penalty, but I don’t know.

It is a bit of a shame the Chinese government took it off the air.

Ann March 16, 2012 at 12:51 am

I kept waiting for the article to discuss how the prisoners that are about to be executed feel about their body parts being sold. Shouldn’t at least some of the proceeds go to the family of the person who supplied the spare parts? But I forgot that the government says that these criminals are consistently patiotic and want to donate their bodies to the State free of charge. And at least they no longer charge the family for the bullet (since they use injections now, to avoid damaging valuable inventory).

I lived in Hong Kong in the 1990s, and everyone knew that the biggest selection and best prices for, say, livers and kidneys were before holidays, especially Chinese New Year. Executing a bunch of potential trouble makers before a holiday keeps them pretty quiet while everyone else celebrates. Plus it’s good family fun, but that was when they did the executions in stadiums for an audience. Now they use those mobile vans so that the parts can be delivered quickly.

Ray Lopez March 13, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Another theory of economics applied to explain the Italian Mafia. But why is there not a big Greek mafia across the sea next door, despite the similarity of cultures and climates? It may be the mafia is like certain forms of cancer: just brought about by bad luck and the initial reluctance of people to stamp it out. But Mancur Olsen’s “roving and stationary bandits” theory of government, and therefore the mafia as a form of government does have a ring of plausibility to it.

“This research attempts to explain the large differences in the early diffusion of the mafia across different areas of Sicily. We advance the hypothesis that, after the demise of Sicilian feudalism, the lack of publicly provided property-right protection from widespread banditry favored the development of a florid market for private protection and the emergence of a cartel of protection providers: the mafia. This would especially be the case in those areas (prevalently concentrated in the Western part of the island) characterized by the production and commercialization of sulphur and citrus fruits, Sicily’s most valuable export goods whose international demand was soaring at the time.”

Me, Myself and AI March 14, 2012 at 12:50 am

Speed reading = skimming. I can’t believe it’s still around – and people are still making money teaching it!

Kevin C. March 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm

On #2, isn’t this just another example of the Iron Law of Institutions?

Floccina March 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm

#6
self-reported health data,

Some of those results are a bit odd. Although it’s possible to tell yourself a story about how the Massachusetts health reforms affected the body mass indexes of the newly insured, you have to stretch a bit.

Seems very weak, I think that it is too early to tell.

One would think that it would improve the health f certain poor people. It would be interesting if someone asked some poor people, would you rather the heart bypass or the $20,000 that it costs.

TGGP March 15, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Re #2, Edward Luttwak discussed that in Appendix A (“The Economics of Repression”) of Coup De’tat: A Practical Handbook, which I host here.

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