What caught my attention in 2015

by on December 29, 2015 at 1:02 am in Current Affairs, Film, Philosophy, Political Science, Sports, Television, Travel, Uncategorized | Permalink

This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies.  It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary.  Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance.  How can one be optimistic about the Balkans?  I imagine a future where African and North African refugees are bottled up there, and Balkan politics becomes slowly worse.  As for Ukraine, a mix of Russia and an “own goal” has made the place ungovernable.  Where is the bright spot in this part of the world?

Nothing good happened in China’s economy, although more fingers have been inserted into more dikes.  I am not hopeful on the cyclical side, though longer term I remain optimistic, due to their investments in human capital and the growing importance of scale.

I have grown accustomed to the idea that Asian mega-cities represent the future of the world — have you?

Syria won’t recover.

This was the year of the rise of Ted Cruz.

It was an awful year for movies, decent but unpredictable for books.  The idea that Facebook and social media rob the rest of our culture of its centrality, or its ability to find traction, is the default status quo.  Not even that idea has gained much traction.  Cable TV started to receive its financial comeuppance.  Yet on the aesthetic side, television is at an all-time peak, with lots of experimentation and independent content provision, all for the better.  I suspect this is one reason why movies are worse, namely brain drain, but I am hoping for longer-run elasticities of adjustment into the broader talent pool.

Against all odds, Homeland was excellent in its fifth season.

I became even more afraid to move my cursor around a web page, and in terms of content, more MSM sites became worse than better.  Banning photos would solve twenty percent of this problem.

Stephen Curry and Magnus Carlsen were the two (public) individuals I thought about the most and followed the most closely.  Each has a unique talent which no one had come close to before.  For Curry it is three point shooting at great range and with little warning; for Carlsen it is a deep understanding of the endgame as the true tactical phase of chess, and how to use the middlegame as prep to get there.  It wasn’t long ago Curry’s weapons were “trick” shots, perhaps suitable for the Harlem Globetrotters; similarly, players such as Aronian thought Carlsen’s “grind ’em down” style could not succeed at a top five level.  Everyone was wrong.

But here’s what I am wondering.  Standard theory claims that with a thicker market, the #2 talents, or for that matter the #5s, will move ever closer to the #1s.  That is not what we are seeing in basketball or chess.  So what feature of the problem is the standard model missing?  And how general is this phenomenon of a truly special #1 who breaks some of the old rules?  Does Mark Zuckerberg count too?

I realized Western China is the best part of the world to visit right now.  The food trends where I live were Filipino and Yemeni, which I found welcome.  Virginia now has a Uighur restaurant in Crystal City, and the aging San Antonio Spurs continue to defy all expectations.  Kobe Bryant, who “ranks among the league’s top 5 percent of shot-takers and its bottom 5 percent of shot-makers,” has redefined the retirement announcement, among other things.

Top curling teams say they won’t use high-tech brooms.  Just wait.

AnandCarlsen

1 Todd Kreider December 29, 2015 at 1:20 am

“Nothing good happened in China’s economy, although more fingers have been inserted into more dikes.”

Well, China still grew at 7% in 2015. *Something* good must have happened.

2 Ted F December 29, 2015 at 1:27 am

“7%.”

3 required December 29, 2015 at 10:09 am

“although more fingers have been inserted into more dikes” has too much entendre. And dike is also spelt dyke.
Sticking fingers into a dyke means to support bad plans, but as a pun where dykes means lesbians, sticking fingers into dykes means to abuse lesbians.
Choosing words and proverbs really impact interpretations.

4 Ian December 29, 2015 at 1:07 pm
5 pongogogo December 29, 2015 at 6:58 am

Estonia is not in the Balkans.

6 Ted Craig December 29, 2015 at 7:41 am

But it is Eastern Europe, which is what Tyler was asking about.

7 Bob from Ohio December 29, 2015 at 10:50 am

“China still grew at 7% in 2015.”

We have official statistics from a Communist dictatorship to prove it.

Its grown 7% or more every year since 1991. Every year. Even in 2008-2010 when the rest of the world was in the “Great Recession”

China has never had negative growth since it turn state capitalist.
Not one year. No cyclical recession.

“*Something* good must have happened.”

Some bureaucrats got bonuses for creative statistics?

8 jjbees December 29, 2015 at 1:28 am

The leftist auto-genocide of the West in a single post: “It was all for diverse and exciting cuisine!”

9 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 5:17 am

Fear fear fear.

It could win the election.

10 Derek December 29, 2015 at 9:30 am

Revenge revenge revenge won the last one.

11 sfaoin December 29, 2015 at 9:36 pm

rvng on who?

12 Gochujang December 29, 2015 at 10:00 am

Odd, I thought the oddness was the Trump-less worldview. As of this moment, true in the comments as well.

Note that Noah Smith connects “the chart” with Trump, as I do.

13 Floccina December 29, 2015 at 12:07 pm

@ Gochujans your link is in keeping with how I see thing and leads to the following predication:

Once China and India reach some level of development, wages of low skill workers in the developed countries will start to rise again. Now I could be wrong if technology that replaces low skill labor advances faster than low skill labor can be redeployed, I would not bet that way though.

14 Gochujang December 29, 2015 at 5:48 pm

To really tip my hand, I don’t think this deal is that bad. We have a lot of people (billions) climbing out of true poverty, and the American working class slipping a bit, but still world-class rich. It might be acceptable, for the greater good.

But of course, my ox was not gored.

15 The Original D December 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Why would they come back to developed countries? Why not Vietnam or Mexico? Or, since global poverty is at an all time low, some of the more stable but poor countries of Africa?

16 Steve Sailer December 29, 2015 at 1:32 am

“And how general is this phenomenon of a truly special #1 who breaks some of the old rules?”

Babe Ruth in baseball would be an example of a #1 who broke through to a new method/philosophy. Ty Cobb, the previous #1, pointed out that because Ruth was a pitcher and thus his hitting wasn’t valued, he was allowed to fool around with practicing batting with an uppercut in his attempt to hit the ball radically further than anyone before, even at the cost of striking out far more often. If Ruth had been a position player, his manager would have forced him to give up his idiosyncratic style and just hit line drives like just about everybody else was doing in 1917-1919.

It’s interesting that Ruth’s homer-hitting breakthrough was partly intellectual, even though Ruth never gave the impression of being thoughtful: Ruth’s decision to accept a much higher risk of striking out in return for upping his slugging average and on-base percentage was statistically the right one to make. The fans loved Ruth’s homers but baseball experts were dubious. Cobb, for example, who was a highly intelligent man, stuck to the old line-drive hitting philosophy.

It would be interesting to check what percentage of the all time greats got there by breaking old rules, the way Ruth did, and what percentage just were better overall without being revolutionary. For example, I can’t particularly identify any single innovation that made Michael Jordan the best at basketball, he just was better than everybody else, even before he took up weightlifting (and maybe PEDs). I would put Tiger Woods in a similar group with Jordan: he was the best without being particularly revolutionary or having any particular gimmick.

17 So Much For Subtlety December 29, 2015 at 2:23 am

This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies. It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary. Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance.

I don’t imagine that much of Western Europe is going to remain democratic and free for much longer either. Southern Europe would already have had a military coup by now if the old certainties survived. Whether they go the path of Chavez or Franco doesn’t seem to matter much. Meanwhile the rest of Europe is so disgusted with the refusal to face reality from their ruling classes they are voting for the Fascists too.

Liberalism has been tried. It has failed. Europeans want something else.

18 T. Shaw December 29, 2015 at 8:50 am

Poland’s parliament has no liberal member. That is a good thing.

PC liberals are fascists. What is “semi-fascism”? Is it opposition to gay marriage, to socialism light/robin hood economics, to unborn baby murdering/women’s health, to avoidance of climate change bankruptcy, to Euro-technocrats running one’s nation, etc. If you believe so, you are the fascist.

19 John December 29, 2015 at 9:04 am

Poe’s Law.

20 T. Shaw December 29, 2015 at 11:44 am

I needed to look up that bull shit comment.

As long as anybody that disagrees with orthodoxy is evil/semi-fascist, there can be no discussion.

21 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 10:14 am

It disgusts me when people endeavour to use respectful language to discuss sensitive issues which are prone to offend people or bring up memories of historical wrongdoing. Such efforts to prioritize respectful dialogue will probably destroy civilization entirely.

Better to discuss things in the most inflammatory and insulting possible rhetoric, so as to bring the ingrates over to the right way of thinking. That way, the people who need to hear what they need to hear will be more inclined to listen.

PC liberals are so completely retarded and brainwashed by socialist propaganda and social engineering (especially teachers and professors, who are basically all closet Marxists) that they refuse to see the truth when it smacks them right in the face. To start off with, every last one of those inbred paedophile Muslims is actively plotting to demographically overwhelm and then completely destroy Western civilization, so probably we need to carpet bomb the Middle East – the ones who live will be more moderate. But the PC liberals are too polite to admit how disgustingly inferior and evil ALL Muslims are.

But the liberal fascists are too PC to understand how to bring out the best in people. They are the real enemy.

/sarc

(200 Muslims surround church in Nigeria on Christmas … to protect them: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/12/29/200-muslim-men-surround-christian-church-on-christmas-day-to-protect-worshippers/. Muslim passengers refuse to be separated from non-Muslim passengers during a terror attack, saving the lives of the non-Muslims: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3369735/The-militants-threatened-shoot-Muslim-passengers-board-bus-defy-terrorists-demands-separate-Christians-deadly-terror-attack.html)

22 T. Shaw December 29, 2015 at 11:03 am

OK.

There is no cure for stupid.

(“200 Muslims”: Man bites dog.)

23 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 11:40 am

My point exactly. Your combination of insult and hyperbole has me convinced. Ergo, you must be right.

PC is fascism. Just gotta contact all the dictionaries to let them know to turn the definitions upside down.

24 T. Shaw December 29, 2015 at 12:53 pm

“We have made men proud of most vices, . . . ” C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

25 John December 29, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Great let’s bring the Sky Fairy’s enemies that He created for … reasons into this. That’ll certainly clear things up.

26 John L. December 29, 2015 at 3:36 pm

“We have made men proud of most vices”
Wrath and bigotry, for instance? It is not new, is it? Think of those pious, proudly doing their part in punishing “Christ’s murders”, burning their books, raping their women.

27 The Original D December 29, 2015 at 6:03 pm

@T Shaw how many stories have you seen recently about Christians protecting Muslims?

28 FXKLM December 29, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Nathan: In your two examples, what was the threat that the Muslims you cited were protecting against? The fact that you don’t need to say (and that it’s obvious to anyone with the slightest familiarity with world events in the 21st century) pretty severely undermines your argument.

29 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 9:32 pm

FXKLM – Normal Muslims taking action to protect non-Muslims from violent extremists. Ergo, they aren’t 100% evil.

But hey, when a Christian protects a Christian, we don’t point out that this is evidence that Christians are bad, we highlight the Christian who did good.

Is it not possible to appreciate a story of some Muslims doing courageous things to protect non-Muslims without turning the story back around to … Muslims=bad?

30 So Much For Subtlety December 30, 2015 at 2:50 am

Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 10:14 am

It disgusts me when people endeavour to use respectful language to discuss sensitive issues which are prone to offend people or bring up memories of historical wrongdoing. Such efforts to prioritize respectful dialogue will probably destroy civilization entirely.

The hypocrisy here is that you feel free to insult other people’s religions and political beliefs any time you feel like. When you get called out for it you refuse to learn, accept or apologize.

What you mean is that people you do not like should not be allowed to make points you do not care for. Nothing else.

(200 Muslims surround church in Nigeria on Christmas … to protect them. … Muslim passengers refuse to be separated from non-Muslim passengers during a terror attack, saving the lives of the non-Muslims:

You realize both those stories are probably made up, right? The bus attack is internally inconsistent – they happily kill Muslims too so why not kill anyone who cannot identify as Muslim by reciting the right prayer? It looks like they shot at the bus and then run. The second story comes from a Nigerian website. Don’t give them your credit card details. Neither is particularly compelling.

31 So Much For Subtlety December 30, 2015 at 2:57 am

Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Is it not possible to appreciate a story of some Muslims doing courageous things to protect non-Muslims without turning the story back around to … Muslims=bad?

So do you apply this logic to, say, Twelve Years a Slave? The story just did not concentrate enough on all the good slave owners? Do you find Gone With The Wind’s single minded focus on benevolent slave owners off putting?

32 Art Deco December 29, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Southern Europe would already have had a military coup by now if the old certainties survived.

What ‘old certainties’? Greece is the only country in Southern Europe which has had a military coup since 1926, and Greece has had only one such since the war.

33 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Portugal’s Salazarist regime lasted until 1974, Franco’s until 1975. They didn’t have military coups because, since the 1930’s, they already had the kind of government those coups use to bring.

34 Steve Sailer December 29, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Portugal had more or less two military coups in the mid-1970s, the first by leftist officers, the second by rightist officers.

35 Thiago Ribeiro December 29, 2015 at 9:15 pm

OK, but not coups against a democratic. The first overthrew Salazarism without Salazar (the same way as in Brazil in 1945, the military was the key supporter of the Fascist regime, and the redemocratization would have to depend on it), the second overthrew the officers who were making the “revolution” go too far to the left.

36 Art Deco December 31, 2015 at 8:10 pm

No, it had only one. And that one did not displace a parliamentary government.

37 So Much For Subtlety December 29, 2015 at 2:27 am

Damn it. That comment wasn’t supposed to go there. This one was:

Tiger Woods did pioneer one thing – the idea that working out was for everyone. Up to that point golf had been a game for fat middle aged White people. Even professionals concentrated on their putting.

But Tiger Woods lifted weights. Now they all have to. Baseball may be next!

38 Adrian Ratnapala December 29, 2015 at 2:37 am

I had imagined baseball went through that transition a long time ago. Cricket certainly did.

39 Steve Sailer December 29, 2015 at 3:28 am

It took baseball players a long time to discover working out. Granted, Honus Wagner lifted dumbbells over a century ago, and Ruth hired a personal trainer after his disastrous 1925 season to keep him fit tossing the old medicine ball around during the off-season, extending his career by a decade. But those were exceptions: weightlifting was looked down upon by most baseball players at least until the 1980s as making you “musclebound.” Nolan Ryan took up lifting in 1973 and in the late 1970s he eventually talked Brian Downing into doing it too, but they were anomalies at the time.

40 collin December 29, 2015 at 10:55 am

I know the great hero of the 1970s Pete Rose was against weight lifting which probably slowed down its impact on players. However, I seemed to remember Steve Carlton was a workout fiend back in the 1970s although his media relations limited his impact here.

But viewing Brian Downing career changed the point on working out. His sudden change from a medicore catcher to an 20 – 30 home run hitter was tremendous to witness in the 1980s. (Realize in early 1980s 20 – 30 home runs had more impact.)

41 rayward December 29, 2015 at 7:34 am

Actually, the lesson from Tiger Woods is moderation, for immoderation in his work-out routines cut short what could have been a long, and record-breaking (in number of major wins), career. Immoderation seems to be the curse of 2015, certainly among politicians (The Donald) and not a few entertainers (Miley Cyrus), but also among the wealthy ($142 million paid for a Francis Bacon painting, $95,000 for a truffle) and even in the Vatican (Merchants in the Temple, by Gianluigi Nuzzi). I favor moderation – I am a cradle Episcopalean – but I don’t always practice it – I was (the emphasis on was) a daily runner for 30 years (and have chronic back pain for my immoderation). One of Cowen’s most appealing attributes is his moderation: moderation in his economic and political views for sure, but also moderation in his own self-appraisal. Moderation: it’s a small step toward a much better world.

42 TMC December 29, 2015 at 9:41 am

+1

43 Steve Sailer December 29, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Tiger Woods buffed up in 2006-2007 when he was secretly thinking of retiring from golf to become a Navy SEAL. His crucial injury apparently happened at a Navy SEAL training facility.

44 Adjoran December 29, 2015 at 4:05 am

Ruth himself credited his new-found batting prowess to closely watching an opposing batter, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Cobb’s game was centered on an earlier era of dead balls and less-closely trimmed grass, which favored his speed and contact hitting.

45 Steve Sailer December 29, 2015 at 4:56 am

One interesting thing is that Ruth started his transition from pitcher to home run hitter in 1918 (hitting eleven homers that season) even though the baseballs were extremely dead in 1918 because umpires were loath to throw a new ball into play because they were supposed to conserve for the War Effort. Then in 1919, Ruth hit an amazing 29 homers, with nobody else in the American League hitting more than 10.

Pitchers were allowed to spit on the baseball up through the 1919 season, which made balls soggy and hard to see. The spitball was gradually outlawed from 1920 onward, with 17 spitballers being grandfathered in until they retired. As prosperity increased, umpires tossed more new balls into play, especially after Ray Chapman was killed by a pitch he didn’t seem to see on August 17, 1920. It appears that the ball was seriously juiced in the second half of the 1920s up through the silly season of 1930, but

But that means that Ruth’s breakout year, 1919, was very much in the Dead Ball Era and his 54 homers in 1920, when nobody else in the league hit more than 19, were in a transitional era out of the Dead Ball Era.

46 Mark B. December 29, 2015 at 11:14 am

Young Jordan was just better, but Jordan had two innovations. His first was his practice, not seen by fans really. He continued to practice with the team, but Jordan completely redefined dedication to mastery of elements of the game. Curry is the heir here in is 3-point practice routine. Kobe was the heir in single minded dedication. (Jordan and Kobe expected the same of their teammates, which is why nobody really wanted to play with them unless they really wanted a title.) That practice lead to Jordan’s other innovation, his fade-away jumper. Young Jordan didn’t need it because he just jumped higher, but old Jordan needed to find that window his legs used to give him. And yes, there were fade away jumpers before, just like there were 3-pointers before Curry. But, Jordan made his automatic. You couldn’t really defend it, and he made such a high percentage that it was deadly. He’d post up or just dribble into the post. Back you down to 15 feet, and turnaround fade away. Before Jordan, you’d give anybody that shot and take it as a win. Jabar’s skyhook was the highest evolution of the old turnaround. The only guys who took that shot were centers 3-5 feet away. Jordan took it from anywhere and made it all the time due to his practice.

47 Steve Sailer December 29, 2015 at 7:55 pm

The skyhook looked like the future of basketball in 1971, but then nobody else mastered it, even though Jabbar remained hugely effective with it, winning the NBA Finals MVP at age 37 in 1985.

48 CC December 29, 2015 at 1:51 am

“I have grown accustomed to the idea that Asian mega-cities represent the future of the world — have you?”

Having recently returned from Japan not too long ago I’m definitely not complaining. We could learn a lot from their permissive development style.

49 Tommy December 29, 2015 at 2:09 am

“The idea that Facebook and social media rob the rest of our culture of its centrality, or its ability to find traction, is the default status quo”

What does this mean?

50 prior_test December 29, 2015 at 2:30 am

That you should be clicking more likes in connection with perusing this web site.

51 a December 29, 2015 at 3:24 am

> That you should be clicking more likes in connection with perusing this web site.

Strange remark to make on a site that does not have any “likes” to click.

52 prior_test December 29, 2015 at 3:57 am

You must not be a loyal reader, though this might be a bit before your time –

‘That is correct, the Cowen-Tabarrok text, Modern Principles. It is a steady stream of resources for using the text, and learning and teaching economics more generally, updated on a very regular basis, organized using the wonders of Facebook.

Don’t forget to click the “Like” button.

http://www.facebook.com/ModernPrinciples

Thank you Mark Zuckerberg! I rooted for you in the movie too.’ http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/01/facebook-page.html

Maybe the fact that MRU and this web site are not precisely the same keeps one from noticing this reference? – https://www.facebook.com/mrevuniversity/?_fb_noscript=1

And you are aware that Facebook users are tracked on this web site, right? Though that occurs at any web site with the Facebook logo appearing on it, so it is not that this web site is making any special effort to be utterly mainstream in participating in a truly immense data collection system (think twitter, google, yahoo, et al – at a minimum, Javascript, images, Flash, and third party cookies need to be turned off to avoid one’s data from being casually swept up in the large net being cast for whatever profitable purpose can be found for whatever is harvested).

And ‘peruse’ was intended to mean that one should be clicking approval of the links spread ever so generously through this web site. Such as all the Amazon listed books on the left – I’m confident that authors with a Facebook page for their textbook would be just as happy with favorable review ratings (much the same as likes, though with more granularity) at Amazon.

And of course, you can always like Prof. Tabarrok – https://www.facebook.com/alex.tabarrok?_fb_noscript=1

53 uair01 December 29, 2015 at 4:40 am

Could it mean something like this: http://www.theawl.com/2015/12/access-denied – (…) what can we possibly do about Instagram (…) an expression of a worry that’s creeping up behind almost everyone in the business of distributing media for a living. Loss of power resulting in a loss of access resulting in further loss of power. It’s a disruptive new take on the media death spiral!

54 prior_test December 29, 2015 at 7:29 am

This link, concerning Tom Cruise, celebrity, and the Internet, provides a somewhat parallel perspective on this evolving framework – http://www.laweekly.com/news/how-youtube-and-internet-journalism-destroyed-tom-cruise-our-last-real-movie-star-4656549

55 Chris S December 29, 2015 at 8:45 am

That if it didn’t trend on facebook, it didn’t happen.

56 Alain December 29, 2015 at 9:29 am

It means the circle jerk that we are all’s accustomed to on message boards has, with the advent of Facebook, gone mainstream. This means that, like message board aficionados, the general population’s opinions upon many divisive topics have calcified.

57 carlolspln December 29, 2015 at 2:13 am

“Nothing good happened in China’s economy, although more fingers have been inserted into more dikes”

Incorrect.

Coal begins its ‘long sunset’, with China the bow wave, according to the IEA:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/12058456/IEA-sees-peak-coal-as-demand-crumbles-in-China.html

58 TMC December 29, 2015 at 11:24 am

It’s called a recession. China’s also building 400 new coal fired generation plants. They’ll probably burn… coal.

59 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

If anyone’s likely to overestimate that number, it’s Greenpeace. They suggest that 155 more are in the works despite under-utilization of existing plants, and that the existing overcapacity implies that lots of older plants will be closed: http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2015/11/11/chinas-coal-bubble-155-new-overcapacity/.

60 Adrian Ratnapala December 29, 2015 at 2:34 am

Tyler seems to imply the world is ending sometime in the next few years. Because statements like:

> “… it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies”

and

> “Syria won’t recover.”

Don’t make much sense without some particular time horizon.

61 prior_test December 29, 2015 at 2:45 am

Come now, as all loyal readers know, this web site is a major proponent of eurogeddon being just around the corner. Though strangely, the pronouncements on that front seem to grown less common. Though probably not because it seems so self-evident now to everyone that this web site feels no need to remark on such conventional wisdom.

62 Behemot December 29, 2015 at 4:10 am

“This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies. It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary. Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance. How can one be optimistic about the Balkans? I imagine a future where African and North African refugees are bottled up there, and Balkan politics becomes slowly worse. As for Ukraine, a mix of Russia and an “own goal” has made the place ungovernable. Where is the bright spot in this part of the world?”

General note: this is the sort of prediction that would make Philip Tetlock (author of “Superforecasters”, a book praised on Marginal Revolution) cry… no specified timeframe, vague terms (note the transition from “free societies” in the first sentence to “illiberal governance” in the second sentence, note also “much of Eastern Europe” – well, obviously, Russia itself amounts to much of Eastern Europe, so combined with Belarus one can always say that this is what Tyler had in mind when stating that “much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies”, but that is extremely banal as we know that already).

A more specific note: Hmm, quite the opposite is true – most Eastern European countries are “free societies” already (sans Belarus and Russia), unless one adopts some exceptionally broad notion of freedom to include competent liberal governance, Western social mores (these are broadly there already, though again, one would have to be very country and even city/region specific to provide some substantive analysis), German levels of GDP per capita etc. Ukraine is horribly mismanaged and chronically corrupt, but even Ukraine would be difficult to characterize as an “unfree” society. I know nothing about Hungary so maybe Tyler is correct on that point. I also possess no knowledge about the Balkans, so maybe Tyler is right on that one, although making that sort of claim is like “predicting” that something could go wrong in the Middle East next year.

63 inertial December 29, 2015 at 10:43 am

Ukraine post 2014 is significantly more unfree than Russia or Belarus. Unless you define “free” as “pro-Western.”

64 Art Deco December 29, 2015 at 3:08 pm
65 The Original D December 29, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I don’t think a time frame is necessary. Most of us are daily readers of this blog and our comments are usually reactions to the first draft of history.

To me the prediction is that over the next year (until Tyler’s 2016 year in review), on these topics, there will be a lot more “down” days than “up.”

66 Chris S December 29, 2015 at 8:47 am

Why are Eastern Europe and Syria “the world”? Eastern Europe spent decades behind the Iron Curtain and “the world” still got along okay. These seem like pretty small-bore predictions.

67 prior_test December 29, 2015 at 2:42 am

‘Where is the bright spot in this part of the world?’

To think that the answer to this question, just a couple of years ago, would have been the bright spot is how many of those countries were not part of the euro zone. At least, that would have been by far the most likely response from at least one leading light of the GMU econ. dept.

‘Banning photos would solve twenty percent of this problem.’

Still unaware of how to set a basic browser setting, even in 2015, it seems. Though admittedly, getting rid of Flash is a bit harder – though considerably more rewarding terms of removing security problems, enhancing privacy, and really speeding up the loading of web pages.

‘deep understanding of the endgame as the true tactical phase of chess, and how to use the middlegame as prep to get there’

Next year, this might read as a ‘deep understanding of the middlegame as the true strategic phase of chess, and how the endgame uses this prep to get there.’

68 John December 29, 2015 at 9:12 am

The bright spot *is* the suffering. Maybe next time they get a shot to join the west they won’t reject it out of an unwillingness to reject bigotry.

If you’ve never been to Eastern Europe, I don’t recommend it.

69 Ray Lopez December 29, 2015 at 9:39 am

prior_test says: ‘deep understanding of the endgame as the true tactical phase of chess, and how to use the middlegame as prep to get there’ – you don’t play chess…you cannot play the middlegame from the endgame.

70 David Condon December 29, 2015 at 2:53 am

“Standard theory claims that with a thicker market, the #2 talents, or for that matter the #5s, will move ever closer to the #1s.”

No, it doesn’t. A larger sample size will move the 2nd percentile and the 1st percentile closer together, but it will also increase the likely size of an outlier at the absolute number one position. Curry and Carlsen are absolute number ones; not relative number ones.

71 Ray Lopez December 29, 2015 at 9:33 am

+1- was going to say the same thing; like a big pile of sand, the more people you have the more outliers.

72 NeedleFactory December 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm

+1 Scanning the comments, I was about to say the same thing. David and Ray said it better.

73 affenkopf December 29, 2015 at 3:00 am

“Standard theory claims that with a thicker market, the #2 talents, or for that matter the #5s, will move ever closer to the #1s.”

How about a larger sample size of sports: How close is Ronaldo to Messi? Or for that matter: How close are Neymar, Suárez or Lewandowski to both of them?

74 Kyle December 29, 2015 at 7:04 am

Swimming, track, etc could be interesting because it’s easier to measure progress. My guess is that compression is more typical there. I suspect that sports in general shows compression, then one or two outliers breaking the mold and getting big improvement, and then the new strategy getting adopted broadly causing compression again. A lot of time that’s a skill set or body type, so you may need to wait 8 years as high schoolers become professional. In directly competitive sports, especially team sports, there is more strategic variation so I would expect outliers to show up more frequently.

As markets get deeper you get more people pushing towards number one, but also more incentive to break the mold and create a new number one.

75 jim jones December 29, 2015 at 3:05 am

Eastern Europe is following the Japanese model, zero immigration means cultural cohesion.
Best movie of the year was The Martian.

76 Christian December 29, 2015 at 3:59 am

Yes. No.

77 Big in Japan December 29, 2015 at 6:16 am

Critical difference with Japan: japanese are not flooding neighbouring countries because of their poor economic performance.

78 Adjoran December 29, 2015 at 4:09 am

Aronian had trouble with Carlsen even when Magnus was a young upcoming teen, most of his successes were in rapid and exhibition play. So the evaluation of Kasparov, who retired before Magnus got to the top ranks, was more accurate and less biased. But Carlsen has surely regressed relative to the second tier since his title defense. He still wins most events, but not as clearly as he was, and his jinx in team events continues.

79 yo December 29, 2015 at 4:21 am

O tempora! O mores!

80 ivvenalis December 29, 2015 at 5:03 am

I hope you’re not being sarcastic. Cicero was right.

81 Michael December 29, 2015 at 4:52 am

Tyler,
What would you suggest for a three week western China itinerary?

82 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 5:41 am

‘Where is the bright spot in this part of the world?’

Well, some might decry the relative turn to the left in Canada, but I definitely find it a bright spot from the perspective of democracy that we got rid of a governing party which, over 10 years, built its control over the governing apparatus to the point that basically no one in the government was allowed to speak publicly about anything unless they had formal permission (almost never obtained) from people working directly for the prime minister’s office.

It is nice for the public and reporters to be able to speak with government again. And also, for public servants to be free to open their mouths without fear of getting blacklisted.

But I guess that’s small potatoes compared to the Chinese economy, war in the Middle East and the refugee crisis.

83 Hoosier December 29, 2015 at 8:06 am

Has Tyler commented at all on the Canadian election? It does seem to be the one place going against the trend and turning a bit leftward.

84 Nathan W December 29, 2015 at 9:11 am

The only Canada related thing I recall ever here is something about tourism in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto that probably 99% of the world has never heard of and for which most Torontonians probably couldn’t list even one reason to visit.

What can I say … Americans don’t care much about Canada for the most part. There was a TV show years back that was quite popular in Canada, with the basic premise of interviewing Americans on the street, ideally highly placed politicians, then the interviewer would say/ask absurd things about Canada (often relating to stereotypes involving the cold, or fake naming politicians and places after Canadian foods or brands), and seeing what even more absurd things people would say in response. In short, most Canadians get a kick out of how clueless Americans are about anything going on right next door. (It makes people feel smarter, more worldly, than Americans).

85 Ted Craig December 29, 2015 at 9:16 am

Well, there was Greece. Also, Sweden switched to the liberal party in late 2014, Australia dumped its conservative PM in favor of a center-right PM and Spain is poised to move left following the Andalusian elections in March.

86 Bob from Ohio December 29, 2015 at 10:56 am

“Australia dumped its conservative PM in favor of a center-right PM”

“Australia” [meaning the people] did no such thing. A majority of the party MPs changed leaders in a palace coup.

87 Ted Craig December 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

That’s true, but the change was made because the Liberals’ poll numbers were terrible under Abbot.

88 carlolspln December 29, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Its called the Westminster System.

Elegant, effective.

What do you people do in the USA?

See item 10: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-21/ten-unusual-facts-about-jfk-assassination/5099004

89 Tom December 29, 2015 at 5:52 am

This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies. It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary. Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance.

Speaking of liberal governance, 2015 was the year when at least Sweden and France turned out to be managed democracies in the nakedly oligopolistic mode. No need to pretend anymore?

90 stop with the predictions already December 29, 2015 at 6:24 am

You know when they say that you truly understand how full of shit are journalists when they start writing about things that you know intimatelly. You did just that with Eastern Europe and Ukraine. I would bet my granny that pendulum will swing back in Poland in the next election cycle or earlier. Ukraine is in a shitter but political life has not be more healthful in 25 years. Stick to basketball and food, Cowen.

91 fwiw December 29, 2015 at 9:48 pm

I predict he won’t

92 vic December 29, 2015 at 7:22 am

That 1st paragraph was one of the worst I’ve ever read from you !!! I Just hope that electing assholes won’t spread to America next year !

93 TMC December 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

Like it hasn’t already been here.

94 Glenn Mercer December 29, 2015 at 8:13 am

Question of clarification, what does “centrality” mean, in this post? I don’t disagree or agree, I just didn’t follow… . Thanks for any help here.

95 Yep December 29, 2015 at 9:06 am

The Polish and Slovak voters and their elected representatives disagree with Tyler on what constitutes representative democracy.

96 Richard Harper December 29, 2015 at 9:25 am

On Carlsen and the non-compression of elite performers: Chess is an extremely ~interactive~ head-to-head competitive activity. Not so much like swimmers racing against each other but more like boxing or wrestling. There is an old idea in chess training that you make more progress in developing your potential talent if you play opponents significantly stronger than yourself. This seems suggestive that in activities where there is a pool of very elite players in frequent competition against each other then potential-talent differences will become accentuated.

97 Daniel December 29, 2015 at 9:27 am

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Tyler Cowen is deeply prejudiced towards Eastern Europeans. I mean, how dare they do things differently than their Western European overlords ?

But that would be generous towards him, he’s just a garden-variety American ignorant moron.

98 MSTT December 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

Why read this blog if you hate it so passionately?

99 ed December 29, 2015 at 11:23 am

Because the NRx god-kings have decreed that these comment sections should be filled with loyal followers. They paid good money to stuff the Hugo Award ballots, wasting time in comments section is cheap compared to that. Such people have nothing but time.

100 Brian Donohue December 29, 2015 at 9:56 am

I found the Eastern Europe thing surprising, particularly coming at the top of your list, when, if anything, it feels like a mishmash afterthought. I’m pretty sure you’re mostly signalling something domestically there. Gotta do what you gotta do, I reckon. Happy new year!

101 MSTT December 29, 2015 at 10:32 am

Fantastic recap.

102 inertial December 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

What makes Ukraine ungovernable: 80% “own goal,” 20% Western meddling, 0% Russia.

103 collin December 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Seriously, 0% Russia…For all the useless Western meddling, Russia:

1) Took land (no matter how historically arguably you make it or how much Russia already controlled) from Ukraine.
2) Gave assistance to Eastern rebels to keep Civil War a threat for 18 months.
3) The big initial move by Putin was to try to Veto trade agreements with Europe.

I give Western meddling 5% and Russia 20% here. And long term now Eastern Europe does not trust Russia anymore.

104 Art Deco December 29, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Seriously, 0% Russia…

The alt-right has an emotional investment in Putin the Magnificent and in the notion of themselves as fearless truth-tellers in a world of the stupid. Sometimes, that leads to some strange judgments.

105 The Original D December 29, 2015 at 6:16 pm

In Putin’s Russia, Russia meddles with the West!

106 The Anti-Gnostic December 29, 2015 at 10:54 am

This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies. It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary. Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance.

As opposed to the national security, surveillance, transfer payments, civil rights laws, foreign wars and intractable social conflict of glorious multicultural America, Britain, France and Germany? Diversity, liberty or equality; choose one.

107 collin December 29, 2015 at 11:01 am

I have grown accustomed to the idea that Asian mega-cities represent the future of the world — have you?

Then how do you fix the incredibly low birth rates in these Asian cities. It is hard to see a thriving Asian mega-cities if only the richest feel they can have 2 or more children.

108 The Anti-Gnostic December 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

It’s funny seeing the things that Tyler won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. E.g., Syria won’t recover. Surely the blow-up of pluralistic states across the Middle East merits more thoughtful treatment. The Occidental Universalists most cherished ideals have vanished like puffs of smoke in the Middle East: when centralized, authoritarian governments lose power, multiculturalism and liberalism are not what breaks out. Also, for all his visits to Israel and glowing reviews of the place, Tyler never seems to get around to observing how the Israeli government pursues policies which run contrary to libertarian economists’ policy prescriptions back home.

And, This was the year of the rise of Ted Cruz. And not, not, NOT the year of the crash and burn and utter humiliation of El Jebe Arbusto–that’s not an interesting story at all. Move along people. Also, there’s some other guy creating a stir in the Republican primary race but his name eludes me.

109 The Original D December 29, 2015 at 6:17 pm

“Occidental Universalists”

Don’t you mean Neocons?

110 collin December 29, 2015 at 11:20 am

It was an awful year for movies..And isn’t the returns on movies better than ever? For all the complaints of endless sequels, they appear to be doing extremely well at the box office.

In 2015, 5 movies passed $1B in global grosses of which two, likely three with Star Wars, ended up with over a $1B in overseas grosses. It appears Hollywood is using high budget sequels to elbow out the foreign competition here.

111 Chris December 29, 2015 at 11:41 am

Is the Czech Republic no longer considered to be a part of Eastern Europe? I ask this not just from this post, but from all over – Poland is always held up as the best performing of “the East”, but it’s pretty obvious that the Czech Republic is the best performing in just about every way. Is it their geographic location? Do people just consider that country to be fully a part of the west now?

112 John Smith December 29, 2015 at 11:43 am

“I realized Western China is the best part of the world to visit right now.”

Yes, the breathing is excellent!

113 Stephan December 29, 2015 at 11:53 am

Carlsen is excellent in any phase of the game or at any time control Classical/Rapid/Blitz. He just strives for equality in the opening because he is not interested in memorizing computer analysis like Giri. He can win in the midllegame against 2700+ players like he just showed at Qatar Open against Mamedyarov and Li Chao. Against top 10 players that are extremely well prepared, sometimes all you have is a tiny advantage in the endgame which he is the most determined player to convert to a win.

114 Art Deco December 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm

This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies. It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary. Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance.

The Mercatus Center is now promoting the idea that controlling your borders is ‘semi-fascist’ and disrupting the schemes of the legal profession and their allies among elected officials is ‘illiberal governance’.

115 collin December 29, 2015 at 1:09 pm

The biggest story to the US economy in 2015. The Krugman-Summer versus the high inflation appears to be settled. Krugman-Summer won this one with the fall in oil prices, the low rates did not cause an inflationary economy. (I think it was settled in 2014 but in 2015 it was obvious.)

Otherwise it appears the Great Recession has caused:
1) Long term rates will continue to low.
2) The US labor participation has fallen long term.
3) The great breaking of the global economy and the US economy did not happen.

116 IVV December 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm

“Nothing good happened in China’s economy…”

“I have grown accustomed to the idea that Asian mega-cities represent the future of the world — have you?”

Well, that’s pessimistic.

117 DK December 29, 2015 at 10:51 pm

“became *clear* that … Europe *probably* won’t end up”

So much for clarity!

“Stephen Curry and Magnus Carlsen were the two (public) individuals I thought about the most”

Ah, the mind of public university’s tenured non-STEM professor!

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