Tuesday assorted links

by on February 28, 2017 at 12:31 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Should cow urine be worth more than cow milk?

2. No woolly mammoths in two years, sorry.

3. Why Chris Blattman is skeptical about UBI.

4. A critique of Autor, Dorn, and Hanson on China (Due to book and other commitments, I have not read it but I am seeing it get some play).  And a Phil Hill critique of the new Caroline Hoxby paper on on-line education, have not read that either, sorry!

5. Matthew Rees review of Complacent Class in WSJ: ““The Complacent Class” is refreshingly nonideological, filled with observations…that will resonate with conservatives, liberals and libertarians.”

6. David French at National Review, “one of the most important reads of the new year.”

7. Australia kangaroo fact of the day.

1 Roger Sweeny February 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

David French has convinced me. It is a spiritual crisis. We need faith and submission to God’s will. Only one modern religion offers that: Islam.

2 Thiago Ribeiro February 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Chrisrianity can, too. Have I mentioned the fact Brazil’s Protestants, who are predicted to become a plurarity of the Brazilian popularion, vuilt a replica of Solomon’s Temple. It is already seen as one of the Wonders of our times. Brazil is becoming for Protestantism what Saudi Arabia is for Islam.

3 The Centrist February 28, 2017 at 1:31 pm

I would rather be ruled by the first 2000 names in the Sao Paulo phonebook than the venerable Mullahs of the Saudi Kingdom.

4 Thiago Ribeiro February 28, 2017 at 3:47 pm

I would rather be ruled by any 2000 names in Brazil, except maybe those we end up choosing at election day, than the venerable Mullahs of the Saudi Kingdom. However the Saudis are America’s good allies while Brazil is always blamed.

5 msgkings February 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Not blamed, ignored.

6 Thiago Ribeiro February 28, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Blamed, mistreated or ignored depending on the occasion. Meanwhile, the Saudis are treated like kings, specially their kings. The faithful ally is thrown into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth while unfaithful xines on milk and jhoney. The world is upside down.

7 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 5:47 pm

Christianity spells it out in a hundred ways.

The meaning of Islam, “submission to God”, can mean a great many different things depending on theology.

For many, it is best exemplified by an attitude towards “Alhamdulillah” which basically amounts to …. being resigned to taking it as it comes, but appreciating whatever goodness comes your way.

Islam seems to have much less inclusion of stories related to actively creating productive wealth, etc. But maybe they thought it was not necessary? As the most recent Abrahamic faith, it very explicitly looks to Christinaty and Judeasim as its predecessors, an religious scholars, judges, etc., are presumably well-versed in these previous traditions as well … so maybe it just wasn’t necessary to repeat themselves on such matters? (If if ultimately it seems to get less attention?)

8 Chuck March 1, 2017 at 6:32 am

Nietzsche considered Christianity to be a losers religion because of Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” and “meek shall inherit the Earth” stuff. Basically comforting slaves into accepting their lot because they will be redeemed in the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Augustine told Christians not sweat the fall of Rome because they should be focused on the City of God.

On the other hand, the Old Testament (Judaism), tells the chosen that God will give them the world if they obey his commands.

9 Troll me March 1, 2017 at 2:59 pm

For such reasons, Christian theology and philosophy might appeal to some rather draconian types who want to put a veneer of decency onto things.

But think more at the community level. The opposite of “turn the other cheeck” is “every push comes to shove comes to …???”.

It really adds up well, especially with the introduction of democracy and neutralization of explicit political power of organized religion.

The assumed situation of how nobility interacted with clergy to use bilblical teachings with respect to their control and treatment of their human chattle does not therefore imply that such theologies and philosophies were similarly naive or retarded in 100 AD or 1900 AD.

10 The Anti-Gnostic February 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

#6 – The USA was founded as a geographic redoubt so the Americans could enjoy the bounty of a new land without Continental wars, sectarian conflict, and high taxes. The gentleman farmers and bankers who established the new State do not strike me as particularly innovative. Very bold populist politicians no doubt. Are you calling on us to fly the bloody flag and water the tree of liberty again?

Also, you are running up against Business 101 and Econ 101. Humans seek to reduce risk, increase leisure, and gain individual autonomy. Good luck building New Market Man. If the economy doesn’t grow enough to get us out of the hole that our own poor choices and your bad advice put us in, too bad.

#3 – I thought the “Universal” in UBI meant it wasn’t just for the poor though I appreciate the fiscal and equitable arguments. It doesn’t seem too difficult to determine the cost of a minimal standard of living, averaged across the country, and dole it out to whomever is below the threshold. You will also need to condition it on birth limits and sterilization. People incapable of managing the income in order to provide for their basic needs will need to be placed in some sort of wardship.

11 lemmy caution February 28, 2017 at 1:47 pm

“You will also need to condition it on birth limits and sterilization.”

no. no, you don’t

12 Milo Minderbinder February 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Yeah, you do.

If the UBI is given only to adults, the demand for the return of welfare programs will start the first time some single mom of three runs out of money in the middle of the month and can’t feed her kids.

if you include kids in the UBI then you massively incent lower classes to have even more kids.

Not to mention the magnet it will create for pregnant illegal aliens to cross the border and give birth to an UBI anchor baby. What is the present value of a $10,000/yr inflation-adjusted life-time annuity?

13 lemmy caution February 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm

no. I looked it up. nobody has to be fascists; just, some people want to be fascists.

14 Milo Minderbinder February 28, 2017 at 2:14 pm

What is your solution for kids and UBI, other than to call people who disagree with you names?

15 lemmy caution February 28, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Kids are good and it is perfectly fine for people to have more of them if they want. I think you are overestimating how much people like coerced sterilization and dislike kids. Maybe you should go on facebook more?

16 Turkey Vulture February 28, 2017 at 3:14 pm

I think you overestimate how much people like paying for other people to have kids.

17 Anonymous February 28, 2017 at 3:15 pm

lemmy caution’s comment is a good example of how websites like Facebook create ideological bubbles.

18 The Anti-Gnostic February 28, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Kids are good and it is perfectly fine for people to have more of them if they want.

On your own dime, knock yourself out. But if society is chipping in for your brood, then society gets to decide the credit limit on the tab you’re telling it to take up.

I forgot to mention, welfare will have to be eliminated. If we’re all grownups here, there’s no need for babysitters. In recognition that some lack the IQ or time preference to manage their basic income, they will have to exchange it for some form of institutionalized living.

19 The Anti-Gnostic February 28, 2017 at 3:20 pm

backslash i

20 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Subection C.2

Fascism, Nazism and pro-eugenics perspectives are now required, or you’re cut from the network.

21 Anonymous February 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

+1

I’m eager to read the book for myself, reading all these reviews before, everyone seems to think the message is a variation of “those damn Americans, not good enough!” But Tyler is smarter than that, and I think the Straussian reading will be rather different.

22 P Burgos February 28, 2017 at 3:54 pm

What do you think is Cowen’s esoteric teaching? Presumably something that would harm most of his readers if they actually understood and believed it.

23 Thiago Ribeiro February 28, 2017 at 3:52 pm

I think the wardahip thing is a good idea, but I am against sterelization.

24 Joe In Morgantown February 28, 2017 at 6:43 pm

“The gentleman farmers and bankers who established the new State do not strike me as particularly innovative.”

You must have a very high standard. When I look around my office I see two things invented in the 1700s: swivel chairs and bifocals. That’s Jefferson and Franklin, if you don’t know.

25 GoneWithTheWind February 28, 2017 at 8:32 pm

The only value to the UBI and other pie in the sky socialist ideas is that it tells us who are too stupid to be in charge of anything. Just being stupid enough to suggest a UBI should eliminate you from government.

26 WC Varones February 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm

#3. There are two general versions of UBI. One is a fantasy and the other is a misnomer.

The fantasy is a check cut to every adult or every household that’s enough to provide for basic needs (i.e something like put everyone above the poverty line). Do the numbers. The amount of money required is absurd relative to federal budget & revenues.

The misnomer is really a guaranteed income, not universal. It gets paid only to the poor, and creates a huge marginal tax cliff for the working poor, which is one of the problems a UBI was supposed to eliminate.

27 kevin February 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm

I think you are wrong. If my math is correct $11k*320 million people=about 3.5 trillion dollars per year. Compared to a 2016 budget of 3 trillion revenue, and 3.5 trillion spending. Its a big number no doubt, but not absurd–approximately double. And of course some of the current spending is on welfare programs which can be eliminated, and if everyone receives an extra 11k$ that’s additional revenue that gets taxed. No doubt it would still require a tax increase, however, 90% of the country wouldn’t complain since the extra $11k$ more then outweighs the increased tax rate. Yes, the 1% would be very upset since they would be the ones paying for it, but it is doable

28 The Other Jim February 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm

>an extra 11k$ that’s additional revenue that gets taxed.

God, I love this.

People need more money… SOLUTION: The Govt will give it to them!!

But then the Govt will need more money… SOLUTION: They can tax the handout!!

Let me guess: the extra tax revenue will result in a bigger handout??

29 A Definite Beta Guy February 28, 2017 at 3:14 pm

It’s the self-sustaining economy from Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

We’re crab people now.

30 kevin February 28, 2017 at 6:11 pm

I’m not sure why you find this ridiculous? It would be the exact same thing as if the government distributed welfare on a sliding scale so that you weren’t penalized so heavily for finding a job. Our tax rates have very small changes in the effective rate based on how much you make. Welfare does not.

31 The Other Jim February 28, 2017 at 10:55 pm

I’ll put it to you this way:

[1] Tomorrow, I will pay you $10,000 to dig a big hole.

[2] The next day, you will pay me $10,000 to fill it in.

[3] Repeat 182 times per year. We both get Columbus Day off to celebrate mindless genocide of completely innocent, peace-loving people.

Question: How much do we add to the annual GDP of our great nation? How much wealth do we create? Is it something like $2 million? Or is it blindingly obviously zero?

Your Economics degree is riding on your answer.

32 kevin March 1, 2017 at 7:17 am

@TOJ,

Your example isn’t close. If you think its redundant to give everyone money and and tax part of it back fine, the exact same mechanics can be accomplished by giving everyone welfare on a sliding scale (middle class gets 75% of what the lowest rung gets, but aren’t taxed the 25%). Of course this isn’t labeled UBI, but it is the same thing

As to your annual GDP question: you don’t directly add anything to GDP, but if you encourage current welfare recipients to get a job/start a new business since they aren’t penalized for it you will add GDP.

33 WC Varones February 28, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Your math is correct but there’s no way you could squeeze that much in taxes out of the remaining “rich” without them shutting down operations and/or leaving the country.

34 JWatts February 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm

LOL, an extra $3.5 trillion is roughly the equivalent of the entire income of the top 1%. So, yes, they would all leave the country.

35 kevin February 28, 2017 at 6:24 pm

Do I think giving everyone $11k is realistic?–obviously not, but the idea of UBI isn’t as “absurd” as many people claim. Even $1k to the country’s poorest would go along way for them while not disincentivizing them from finding a job. If the added expense for that is that middle class gets an addition $750 (that 1000 gets taxed at their marginal rate) I don’t see that as such a bad thing. Heck you could even raise the middle class tax rate a bit to offset that.

36 Steve-O February 28, 2017 at 10:57 pm

If everyone got a check for 11,000, what else would the government need to spend money on? Interest, defense, and what else?

37 Thomas March 1, 2017 at 5:44 am

SS for people who already paid, salaries for civil servants, pensions, infrastructure, executive agencies, NEA and CFPB handouts to lefties, medical, food, and housing so Democrats aren’t dying in the streets after wasting the 11k… pretty much everything?

38 sdb February 28, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Couldn’t you accomplish a significant part of the goal of a UBI by simply making it an income subsidy – set it at something like 11,000 – x%. Here x could be a function tweaked to optimize the trade-off between making the benefit popular by giving it to a lot of people and making it cheap enough that it is plausible to pay for it. This is essentially an expansion of the EITC that extends to the very poor who have no income and large enough that its could displace other forms of welfare. I get why some people wouldn’t support such an expansion on the grounds that we should transfer cash to the poor or that such a program would be so expensive. What I don’t get is why anyone would support UBI instead of a wage subsidy that extended to 0.

39 Joël March 1, 2017 at 1:16 am

kevin, to complete your back-to the envelope calculation, I have looked up the total cost of means tested welfare program, around 900 billions dollars (that includes medicaid but nor medicare or Social Security, cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_programs_in_the_United_States#Costs). Since these programs should presumably be discontinued in case of UBI, you can remove 900 billion to your 3.5 trillions. If you keep the current tax system, you will get back a part of the money you handle in tax, but the average marginal tax rate is between 10 and 15%, so you won’t get much more than 400 millions back this way. So the net cost of your UBI at 11k per person-year is about 2.2 trillions per year. That’s still a lot to find.

If you exclude from the benefits kids less than 18 (as many propose), you will save about 25% of this, for a total cost of 1.6 trillions, or about 10% of the GDP. That’s still way too much to be realistic politically. In Europe with their big welfare state, the net cost or replacing all the means-tested program by the UBI would be much slower relative to GDP, perhaps even close to 0. We can expect it happens there first if it happens at all. Then we could see more about the economics effect (for instance, is the UBI really a less disincentive to work that means tested programs, as its proponent claim?)

40 Thomas March 1, 2017 at 5:49 am

You still need medicaid, food stamps, and housing. You can’t trust people who are dirt poor in America to provide their own essentials with the 11k. Thats a years supply of beer and weed, plus some coke for the holidays, or a lot conversations with QVC.

41 Art Deco March 1, 2017 at 7:49 pm

Medical care is a problem market. Groceries, housing, and utilities are frequently replenished goods whose consumption is sensitive to considerations of amenity. People who don’t pay the rent get evicted, people who don’t buy groceries go hungry, and people who don’t pay the utility bills freeze or lose their services and cannot watch QVC. People can generally be trusted not to court these fates.

The vast majority of those whose earnings put them below the statutory poverty line are elderly, disabled, or impecunious wage earners.

42 anon February 28, 2017 at 1:53 pm

I do not favor UBI now or projecting 20 years into the American future.

The reason I block out this window is that I think you need a really big robot economy to make it work. Then you can do the fantasy version, on the backs of robots.

But not now, or even soon. In a shorter term I think jobs programs are the only practical answer to zero marginal product workers. That is, as companies continue to eliminate newly zero marginal product jobs.

43 celestus February 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm

If UBI was only enough to bring people above the poverty line (maybe round up to $1k/year) and it replaced many/all of existing federal programs it would definitely save money. But that’s a political nonstarter.

44 Harun February 28, 2017 at 7:29 pm

I gambled all my UBI away and now my kids are hungry!

Halp!

I have seen this on the news before. The woman with 7-8 kids staying a hotel room, and sassily saying “somebody needs to take responsibility for my children.”

The reporter actually asked her about food stamps for minute before returning to the human interest sob story aspect.

45 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 5:52 pm

$1000 a month per person times 350 million people …

But for most people it will work out more or less similar after adjusting the tax code to make it sustainable from a budgetary perspective.

The question is really whether people will use the additional resources to invest in themselves in a way that is sufficiently beneficial to the economy to make it work. If we were all mind controlled quasi-bots, this might be easy, but under the assumption that in comparison, freedom is the only option, then it is not obvious whether it would pan out well.

For example, if you know your rent is covered, you can invest 100% of your time to develop a business idea and make all the necessary basic preparations (including networking, etc.).

46 Thomas March 1, 2017 at 5:52 am

Wow, so poor people who are disproportionately black, disproportionately disabled, disproportionately women, and disproportionately crime victims can’t be trusted to responsibly spend $11,000? You can take off the white hood now, fascist.

47 Troll me March 1, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I feel disoriented and confused now.

Why do racist people like to call anti-racists racist? I see this as proof that you know it’s wrong to be racist, and this internal knowledge leads to calls of your racism cutting deeply. Then, a desire for vengeance leads to lashing out with the same statement (which you receive as an insult, but which I intended as a factual description) – hence, the racist getting pleasure in throwing back claims of racism against anti-racists.

48 Daniel Weber March 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm

For example, if you know your rent is covered, you can invest 100% of your time to develop a business idea and make all the necessary basic preparations (including networking, etc.).

I heard this before. It was Obamacare, wasn’t it? It was going to unleash all this entrepreneurial energy!

49 Troll me March 1, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Different policy area.

Also, unleashed entrepreneurial spirit takes more than 12 months to enter into GDP data.

First, you might see a bunch of people quit their jobs, and maybe returns (if any) will enter into GDP calculations in the 5 year time frame or so.

50 mavery February 28, 2017 at 5:59 pm

One thing about your numbers: You’re giving ever person a UBI allotment. Any practical plan wouldn’t provide the same allotment for minors as it does for adults. It would create perverse incentives for people of all stripes to kids/claim kids as dependents. And of those 320 million people, about 80 million of them are minors. So if you want to say, “No UBI for non-emancipated minors”, you can shave 25% off your total cost.

51 rayward February 28, 2017 at 1:09 pm

5. Yes, it will resonate with conservatives, liberals, and libertarians, if for no other reason than its assignment of blame (complacency) on everyone. I have long admired Cowen’s non-confrontational attitude; indeed, I prefer to read what he says because he says what he says in such a polite way. My first economics teacher wore a perpetual smile, was always encouraging, and never initiated an argument. I mistakenly assumed that all economists would be like that. I might not have been so even-handed in handing out the blame, but not many would read that book. Many will read Cowen’s book, and they should. Congratulations.

52 Thomas March 1, 2017 at 5:54 am

Ray is right, we need liberal bureaucrats to make decisions for black people. Thanks, Ray.

53 Massimo Heitor February 28, 2017 at 1:28 pm

#1: Will Tyler’s ethnic dining guide feature authentic Indian cuisine involving cow urine and feces or just the watered down Americanized Indian food of curries and breads? The link just discusses cow urine, but Mahatma Gandhi consumed cow feces products which was a long standing Indian culinary tradition.

54 msgkings February 28, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Ewwww. No wonder Gandhi liked fasting so much.

55 Islander March 1, 2017 at 1:07 am

Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. Many of these weird traditions have actual science behind them: ie if you live in a country full of cows but dwell in the city, getting yourself infected with cow germs in your youth will give you better immunity than if you encounter the diseases in your adulthood (when you could die from them). It’s like throwing coins in a well for good luck: Coins contain silver, a powerful antibiotic agent when dissolved in water. Some good luck charms work.

Anyways, religion is a cultural artifact both in India and here. Our lives are no less weird than theirs.

56 collin February 28, 2017 at 1:42 pm

6. It is the usual French the poors are losers! We must take away all their nice things until moral improves!

57 Turkey Vulture February 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm

1. I wish my urine was marketable.

58 The Other Jim February 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm

And thus a dream was born.

59 word association February 28, 2017 at 2:15 pm

For a second I thought it might be an interesting challenge to see if urine could be successfully marketed, but thankfully it was only a second.

60 Ray Lopez February 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

While it’s true that drinking your own or your buddy’s urine can save you from dehydration (at least once, after that it becomes rather concentrated), did you know that eating your own feces is also a source of food if you’re starving? Or so I’ve heard, not from experience.

61 Turkey Vulture February 28, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Even if the feces part were true, I’d still resort to cannibalism before shit-eating.

62 Ray Lopez February 28, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Bonus trivia: when the African vulture defecates, its feces that rolls down its leg contains a natural antibiotic that keeps the bird from getting disease while eating in carrion.

63 Harun February 28, 2017 at 7:30 pm

People are known to pick corn out of cow dung to eat in locales without food.

Hunger is the best sauce.

64 dux.ie February 28, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Urea is anti-biotic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine_therapy#Public_figures

“””Madonna … urinates on her own feet in the shower, perhaps to help cure her athlete’s foot problem.”””

Talking of golden shower ….

And teeth whitening: http://io9.gizmodo.com/some-people-use-urine-and-chemistry-to-whiten-their-t-1662270403

65 Philip Crawford February 28, 2017 at 1:54 pm

I am weary of the “why I’m skeptical of UBI” posts that are not based on data. So many economists use “common sense” on this issue, yet what does the data tell us? That’s the question GiveDirectly is trying to find out, so imo, these folks should stfu for the moment. #sigh

66 Ray Lopez February 28, 2017 at 8:24 pm

I tend to agree, and that was my post on Blattman’s blog. This time may be different, and there may be some logic to giving a wino a $20 pound note and telling him to spend it as he sees best rather than relying on pricey economist expert opinion. The data will tell.

67 AK February 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm

#6 What is it about Boomers that compels them to write long diatribes about how America has moved away from religion (when they enshrined it with bigotry), complain about lack of entrepreneurship (when they venerate monopolies and drain the safety net), and whinge about protecting victims of trauma (when they caused that trauma). The David French’s of this world need to remove the planks from their own eyes before they pick at the notes in others’. They need to do it by themselves because we (“Millennials”) are too busy fighting for our survival and dreams in the smoking crater they call a world to read more of these masturbatory, unthoughtful “thinkpieces.” That’s all I’m going to say because my lunch break is over, and I have to get back to my 3 jobs, small business, and fight to rectify the despair-inducing inequity codified by our abusive “Founding Fathers.”

68 gab February 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm

+1.

Well done. That was worth a good laugh!

69 Dick the Butcher February 28, 2017 at 2:59 pm

I can’t stop crying.

I nominate this person second runner-up for the Dumb-Ass of the Week Award.

You cannot blame The Founding Fathers or religion for America’s abandonment of its founding principles, Shirley.

70 Thiago Ribeiro February 28, 2017 at 7:22 pm

For example, slavery. It is hard to blame the Founding Fathers for their children’s forsaking this and other beautiful principles. They did what they could to keep them. No one can blame the Southern Baptists for that either, they defended Slavery as much as they could – in fact, created a whole religion to justify that.

71 Dick the Butcher February 28, 2017 at 8:56 pm

That doesn’t help Shirley solve his problems.

72 Aretino March 1, 2017 at 10:02 am

Baptists? I thought the slaveowners were mostly Anglicans.

73 The Centrist February 28, 2017 at 9:31 pm

I agree. But who are the other nominees?

74 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Self entitled millennials are too busy enjoying the fruits of the end of lifetime jobs, the end of pensions, stratospheric housing prices that put home ownership out of question for more than the last two generations.

That’s why they are so self entitled.

As for the boomers who ran up 20 trillion in debt and will likely vote themselves some tidy benefits in retirement on the backs of those who never enjoyed anything secure … maybe they have some important lessons to teach us about the societal risks of excessive self entitlement?

75 Ray Lopez February 28, 2017 at 8:27 pm

OT – Millennial colon cancer rates have spiked way up, in a study released today, and nobody knows why. Obesity might be a factor? Maybe lifestyle stuff like binge drinking? It’s sad but true.

76 Ricardo March 1, 2017 at 9:36 am

This is when looking at raw numbers helps. The “spike” in colon cancer is an increase from 3 in 1 million to 5.

77 Cooper February 28, 2017 at 2:37 pm

If robots are taking all the jobs, why aren’t we seeing rapid increases in productivity?

I’ve never gotten a clear answer here.

78 Alain February 28, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Probably because robots are still expensive to make.

We’re working on it.

79 anon February 28, 2017 at 3:58 pm

If productivity is flat, and we see obvious productivity improvements, then we must miss the net addition of low productivity jobs which negate the effect. Can higher productivity in X force a lower productivity in Y? Probably yes, in declining market segments.

80 Turkey Vulture February 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Alternatively, we might just be doing a bad job of measuring productivity.

81 anon February 28, 2017 at 11:44 pm

I am using productivity in the historic sense, and yes there could be new realities not captured by revenue per worker.

82 Turkey Vulture March 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

Trollme’s post below brings up an interesting issue. I guess I hadn’t really thought much about productivity before.

But our measurements are based around, basically, trying to capture some version of producer surplus as a measure of productivity. Presumably this is because capturing total surplus would be really really difficult because we’d have to come up with consumer reservation prices for every product to come up with a consumer surplus.

So we started measuring something that was comparatively easy to measure, thinking and hoping that it would serve as a fairly-useful proxy for what we actually care about: total surplus created per unit of labor input. But now, when we see that measured productivity isn’t rising as fast as we think it should be given all our technological innovations, we should step back and ask whether the measure of productivity we created has ceased being a reliable proxy for what we actually care about. People are creating elaborate theories for a lack of measured productivity gains when the reality may just be that our productivity measure is broken.

83 Troll me March 1, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Measured productivity is precisely the dollar value of outputs divided by the dollar value of inputs.

The question of surplus can be related for understanding certain aspects of this, but the statistic referred to as “productivity” should not be declared or interpreted as anything other than it is.

Calculating total surplus might not actually be that complicated. You don’t need reservation prices of every consumer. 5 or 10 representatiive ones would give a very good indication. But only producers have the level of detalied data relating to production costs to make the final calculations, a practice which may serve as an inbuilt anti-Stalinist mechanism.

84 A Definite Beta Guy February 28, 2017 at 5:15 pm

This doesn’t make sense. Why would an increase in productivity in some sectors cause overall productivity go down? It doesn’t make sense unless somehow the productivity enabled a few firms to gobble up market share and brought a bunch of monopsony pricing power.

85 anon February 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Well, the archtypical example is Craigslist v newspapers.

Super high productivity at Craigslist reduces revenue at newspapers, lowering productivity, until they cut staff.

86 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 5:57 pm

If there is a high consumer surplus due to low marginal costs, this will not show up in productivity stats.

87 Philip Crawford February 28, 2017 at 11:25 pm

This is the correct answer.

88 Harun February 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Its just a fantasy now. My socialist-leaning friends are the most excited about this. I think it validates their priors. (They are capitalists in mind, but socialist at heart types.)

89 The Original D February 28, 2017 at 8:22 pm

It’s all accruing to the top 1%. They own the robots.

90 Islander March 1, 2017 at 1:13 am

because fewer now have jobs to earn the money to buy the robot’s products. This trend can keep going until there is a single job in the country (pushing the on / off switch) and 378587107 unemployed people. btw i just happened to know the exact number, don’t ask.

91 Axa February 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm

#6: How long older people can keep calling the younger generation snowflakes without facing consequences? Let’s hope the young never decide big mouthed seniors should be exterminated. Paying for unsustainable pension systems is complacent too.

92 Troll me February 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Older people will probably not stop complaining about “kids these days” until (if, hopefully not) some machine-trained neuro influencing system programs it out of them.

As for rising pension costs and age-related health costs, if they get “too high”, numerous forms of political action other than geriatricide are available.

93 leslie February 28, 2017 at 2:46 pm

no wonder a sparsely populated continent, with a billion or so, just above

94 leslie February 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm

dear lil’ papino ess’s, from nowhere’sville, f o, f u, ta ta

95 leslie February 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

crazy ants came, all over, to tah

96 Dick the Butcher February 28, 2017 at 2:51 pm

#7 – Interesting that kangaroos kill (mostly car crashes?) more Aussies than (individually) crocs, sharks and venomous snakes. My question, Do kangaroos taste good?

97 msgkings February 28, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Yep. Had some when I visited Australia. Unsurprisingly, they taste like venison.

98 Bruce Cleaver February 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Seconded! I’ve had a kangaroo steak here in New Jersey. Not bad.

99 Turkey Vulture February 28, 2017 at 4:04 pm

You can buy kangaroo jerky (and venison jerky) from Michigan for delivery. I haven’t bought any in the past few years, but I did have some kangaroo jerky when I was a customer. As I recall, it was in fact a lot like venison (maybe it was actually venison — though I will trust them until proven otherwise).

Also, the “Hellfire” was amazingly hot.

http://www.dublinstore.com/wild-game-jerky-varieties

100 The Centrist February 28, 2017 at 9:36 pm

A supermarket near me sells ‘Roo meat, as well as Buffalo and I think Ostrich.

It is typically sold as ground meat (mince). But I think you can get stew pieces too, if you look. Nothing wrong with the taste or texture. And apparently the leather is excellent: soft like Ray’s girlfriend’s skin and pliable like Troll Me’s mind.

101 Ryan Reynolds February 28, 2017 at 5:25 pm

“Do kangaroos taste good?”

Not so much if you’ve just hit it with your car. Unless you’re from Tasmania maybe.

102 leslie February 28, 2017 at 2:51 pm

just the way things went, on this wild little old universe of meat space _planet earth

103 leslie February 28, 2017 at 2:54 pm
104 leslie February 28, 2017 at 3:32 pm
105 Yehuda February 28, 2017 at 3:54 pm

The kangaroo data is from 2011, but I doubt it has changed much.

106 rayward February 28, 2017 at 4:06 pm

4. The critique looks backwards rather than forwards; and the future looks very different from the past, with China producing goods for China firms not western firms to compete with goods produced for western firms including goods produced in China for western firms. It’s a new epoch, with China creating products not just producing them. Cowen is very much aware of the new epoch. Why are so many economists stuck in the past? I can understand ignoramus politicians being stuck in the past, but why economists? I suppose for the same reason as politicians.

107 Jay February 28, 2017 at 7:26 pm

1. To quote Bernie Sanders… “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country,” How many different types of cow urine are there for sale in India? Me thinks just 1!

108 The Centrist February 28, 2017 at 9:38 pm

The hunger meme or conceit is wearing thin, no pun intended. When was the last time hunger was a serious issue in this country? The problem it seems is a glut of empty calories. Also no pun intended.

109 Islander March 1, 2017 at 1:38 am

the problem with fatties is that their parents and g. parents forced them to finish their meals. that’s because the older folk (ww2 n before) experienced actual hunger and know viscerally that calories are good. i’ve read a theory that these types of formative early childhood preferences cycle over 5 generations or so. meaning by the year 2040, the sad fat kids of today will encourage their own kids to be healthy. And as all the old grannies who think stuffing your kids is good are dead, nothing will contradict the new majority opinion that being fat sucks.

btw this trend is especially obvious with blacks in the south: a mere 50 years ago most were thin and working the fields. being fat was a desired status symbol, especially for the poor. it meant you were wealthier, healthier etc. so no wonder that demographic has overreacted.

110 Boris_Badenoff March 1, 2017 at 9:11 am

While we quibble over UBI and kangaroo jerky, Alex is busily cornering the cow urine market.

Don’t come crying when the price shoots up. I am presently working on a derivative security to hedge the possibility; more later.

111 B. Reynolds March 1, 2017 at 11:32 am

#6 – I can’t help but think that French gave a summary of Brave New World. He expresses fears of a changing world while romanticizing misery, suffering, and mysticism.

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