by Tyler Cowen
on July 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm
1. 12 amazing outdoor steps and staircases.
2. Mismarked exam results in Taiwanese lawsuit.
3. Why are Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?
4. Pavement that eats smog.
5. Science fiction novels for economists.
#5: I highly recommend Permutation City, it’s fantastic. I also caution against Doctorow, who I find shockingly bad..
On 1 – for “Bonus 1” I wonder why the artist didn’t incorporate a mobius strip/twist/spiral quality into the loop. Seems like it would have made a full circuit possible.
They don’t leave their rooms because they like life inside better than outside and they can survive without ever leaving. They have video games, what else do they need. If they had to leave they would, but they don’t have to. Other people let them stay because it is easier than trying to get them out.
#3. I know I should be kinder, but it’s hard not to see this as a luxury condition, like not working for a while after college to “find yourself”. For most of human history (and most of humanity today), withdrawal is not an option because of the constant struggle to make a living.
If you like stairs, check out Tallulah Gorge in GA. 1099 steps down (and back up), with a suspension bridge acros the river halfway down.
Re #5, I have to agree about Vinge’s books. They are great, I just wish he published more.
#5 Re: I like Usrula LeGuin, but “the Dissposessed” didn’t leave me feeling like I learned anything (and is a whole lot less fun than “Earthsea”).
It’s incredibly hard to imagine a world without private property, but LeGuin pulls it off. Spoilers: A world without property is pretty boring and fairly poor.
But LeGuin doesn’t seem to care. She seems to see that world as working (and it’s poor largely because of available resources, not the economic system); this even though she is quite open about how stifling and ideologically intolerant the place is. I guess that is what it looks like when authors leave readers to make up their own minds.
And for “…the anarcho-syndicalist [or communism in our case] idea and movement serve[ing] as a sort of permanent opposition force on the capitalist world.” Well OK. But there doesn’t have to be just one such opposition. And I don’t think our world has been better off because democratic politicians pandered to Marxist ideas.
3. Why are Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?
East Asians are introverted and Japanese more so, in the sense defined by the introversion-extraversion continuum.
Inspired by the West and globalisation, there is a shift from the culture of remaining in the groups you are born in, or find yourself in (perhaps with a limited number of job interviews and other social assessments).
And the shift is to an individualistic culture where you market yourself and sell yourself all the time, with redundancy at work and social exclusion following if you fail to do so.
This cultural shift is not all bad because it leads to more “freedom” and perhaps greater satisfaction as people sort into groups with compatible personalities. There are discontents with this in the West and some fraction of people it makes happy.
But extreme introverts, of which there are proportionally more in Japan, and especially introverts who are systematizers rather than empathisers (who tend to be men), this kind of situation is especially horrible.
So withdrawal is the response.
I wouldn’t see it as a luxury condition, as it is not due to more resources, but more due to an increase in certain pressures which did not exist in earlier environments. A condition for people who are not suited to the culture of selling and marketing yourself 24/7, and who feel neurotic about this (in contrast to both the good extreme extroverts and the bad blithe sociopaths).
I work with (and am related to) more than a few introverts and the market economy / individualistic culture can suit them just fine … probably even better since they have a minority trait.
On some level, I do think the individuals in this article solved a cost-benefit analysis at some point in favor of their room; however, the force of habit is strong so I would not necessarily take their current behavior as their current desired life path. It might be, but it is often hard to change course. Few of us do a cost-benefit analysis each morning to get out of bed, we just follow our routine.
The role of shocks and stress here are interesting too. Studies show that adverse employment shocks at the start of a career can lead to a long-term reduction in earnings and other labor market outcomes. Now maybe the parental stress just revealed a weak social type in the child or maybe it helped set this (adverse) path.
Except for the usual really high IQ types that sorted into the best universities, employment prospects for Japanense youth are abysmal.
High unemployment seems to be a worldwide problem.
In the US, young African-American dropouts have only about a 5% chance of having a job. http://mikekr.blogspot.com/2013/07/pjobpoor-black-dropout-05.html
Spanish youth unemployment is very high. Limited prospects in Egypt seem to be playing a big role in current unrest there.
I meant “high unemployment among the young seems to be a worldwide problem”.
#5: I think my summer reading list is set. The first 6 from the link plus http://www.amazon.com/Han-Unbound-Political-Economy-South/dp/0804740151 which I am just about to finish.
It’s not science fiction but definitely worth reading to get an idea how a country can plan and experience a total transformation in just two generations.
Good links- especially #1and #5.
Re #3- is this what monasteries used to be for?
#3: I’ve only read a couple of the books on that list (Game of Thrones, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress) but it looks great overall. I second the recommendation from the comments to read the Baroque Cycle by Stephenson though it’s an investment.
I generally support Doctorow’s ideas, at least in his criticism of corporate attempts to control IP, if not his optimistic counterfactual scenario. However, based on his blogging and flipping through Makers, I imagine I’d find his novels unbearably preachy. Is this a fair assessment?
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