Request for requests

by on March 2, 2018 at 11:35 am in Weblogs | Permalink

What would you like to hear about these days?  I make no promises, but will earnestly consider whatever you ask for.

1 dearieme March 2, 2018 at 11:36 am

The economics of Junk Science.


2 TheRiver March 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Top ten lists/discussions.

What are the top ten best new ideas? Or ask for suggestions , as in “what would you add to the top ten list of best new products?”

It doesn’t have to equal ten, that’s just an expression but some limit is good to make it manageable.

What are the best ideas for 2018?

What is the best mechanical device invented/created in the past year?

What six things would most help K-12 education in the U.S.?

What did we all get wrong in 2017? (not politics as that is a six lane round about with 100 entrances and no exits. But rather social or other useful things).


3 EmergentOne March 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm

I second this idea. The volume and stupidity of published “science” is almost unimaginable but in any event a constant source of red meat for any of Tyler’s followers interested in this topic. Good sources include Neuroskeptic’s Twitter feed where he/she’s been linking daily to at least a handful of “WTF?!” peer reviewed papers recently published, any of the growing legion of “data thugs” who delight in uncovering and exposing gross methodological mistakes, PubMed Commons (while it lasts) where civilians, to take a recent example, exposed a peer reviewed paper that claimed to have discovered an important cancer mechanism when in fact the cell line used was neither human nor of the organ claimed, and finally PubMed’s Trending Articles. This article ( was the top trending article for weeks last year and led to many lively conversations along the lines of “if there are enough articles on THIS topic to do a point and click meta-analysis it won’t be long before the public gives up on science” – which would of course be terrible.

So what’s behind the junk science factories? Is it just a Keynesian plan to dig holes and throw the dirt in the stream of knowledge to both employ and confer status upon stupid people? That’s my guess.


4 abe March 2, 2018 at 11:39 am

There is evidence of a substantial decline in serial killers in the last decade


Are mass shootings a substitute? (gulp) If so, does this have any impact on the best policy response in terms of mental health?


5 Erik March 2, 2018 at 12:07 pm

It seems highly unlikely that mass shootings are a substitute for serial killers.

It’s possible that both have a similar etiology, specifically that media/news coverage of serial killers in the 70s/80s and media coverage around the 90s influenced some people on the margin to become killers.

I think generally, serial killers are seeking sexual gratification of some sort, while mass shooters are seeking infamy. That is to say, the killing of people isn’t the desired end in and of itself.


6 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Your sexual gratification theory may have some validity, as the rise of the internet makes it much easier for people to find outlets for even the weirdest sexual impulses. Or so I’m told. 🙂


7 abe March 2, 2018 at 12:25 pm

We have much more effective criminal investigative techniques now: DNA, fingerprint databases, cameras/cellphones everywhere, AMBER alerts, etc. Ex-ante, the prospect of being quickly captured seems higher today. Maybe this alone explains the fall in serial killing.

Perhaps serial killers “rationally” (and I use that term very very very reluctantly) acknowledge the higher probability of cature and and are thus induced to engage in a more public, perhaps suicidal plot.


8 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Or maybe, for reasons you say, they get caught after the first or second kill and so they don’t get to the level of ‘serial’ killers.


9 abe March 2, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Ha. Yes!

10 sine causa March 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

and maybe an increase in abortions – Steven Levitt’s theory- ( it’s disputed)

11 afrie March 2, 2018 at 11:40 am

Are we running out of people/research to award the economics Nobel?


12 dearieme March 2, 2018 at 11:45 am

The economics counterfeit Nobel, surely?


13 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 12:13 pm

How do you mean? Is there something about the Nobel in economics that’s different than other Nobels? Why hasn’t a single soul posted anything about that on the internet before?!?


14 dan1111 March 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm



15 y81 March 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm



16 dearieme March 2, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Make fun if you like, but I know the real story behind this monstrous perversion of truth. Someday I will be lauded as a hero.


17 dearieme March 2, 2018 at 11:47 am

Actually, since they are not real Nobel prizes oughtn’t it to be easy to allow posthumous awards? Problem solved.


18 Rick G March 2, 2018 at 11:40 am

Listen to one or more Joe Rogan podcasts (he has many interesting guests so pick one you like) and then give your thoughts on Rogan as a cultural symbol and force.


19 guy March 2, 2018 at 11:44 am



20 FYI March 2, 2018 at 11:45 am

Related to that, it would be interesting to get your take (both Tyler and Alex) on the rise of the “non-democratic” left in college campuses. What is causing this? How bad can this get?


21 Paul March 2, 2018 at 12:16 pm

+1 to FYI’s request: If I recall, Tyler tweeted about Evergreen’s 18% enrollment drop. Do you have a model in mind of current trends in this area? Does competition within this group to signal piety drive out marginal potential joiners/freshmen, leaving a reduced pool of even more pious undergrads enrolling, which induces still more fierce competition to signal piety, which further reduces enrollment … ? Is this an adverse selection story? Is a Kuran-type model helpful? And where in the cascade or selection process do you think we are?


22 Keenmaster March 2, 2018 at 8:48 pm



23 Eric March 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Can you give 2-3 episodes to recommend?


24 Pedro Cerrano March 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Jordon Peterson, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Steven Pinker, Brett Weinstein and Heather Heydig, Robert Sapolsky, Gad Saad etc.

A great deal of it is MMA and comedy focused, but 1/3 or more of his guests, especially lately, come from academia. You’ll find whatever you like.


25 Jimmy March 2, 2018 at 2:24 pm

I’ve listened only to Peterson and Pinker on Rogan – Rogan is so outmatched that he can’t really even interview effectively. The guests were carrying the show entirely.


26 mike March 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

I find this true of nearly everyone who interviews intelligent and interesting people, though. Russ Roberts has been proven almost completely right about his total skepticism on empirical work in many fields, but he’s never been able to articulate exactly why he resists empirical work over the years when guests challenge him.

I think on Tim Ferris’s Nick Szabo/Bitcoin episode he said something along the lines of “I purposefully didn’t read a lot on this so that you could lead this conversation.” I’m sure that’s it, otherwise you’d understand everything about Bitcoin, no doubt.

27 FYI March 2, 2018 at 4:02 pm

That is why I think the show works. Rogan is not interested in showing off or “guiding” interviewers in any way. That free form helps when interviewing smart people.

28 Scott H. March 2, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Exactly. Rogan is outmatched, but still smart enough to get out of his own way.

29 Peter Ozug March 2, 2018 at 6:18 pm

I just listened to the Weinstein/Heydig episode for the second time. Sometimes it’s nice to have an “everyman” interviewing scientists on late night shows or whatever, but in this episode, Rogan’s ignorance and failed attempts to corral the conversation to where he wanted it to go rather than letting these brilliant people discuss their expertise got annoying.

I don’t fault hm for the ignorance and I think that he’s doing a great job at bringing these people’s work to the masses (myself included). The episode was less than I wanted but it’s the first I’ve heard of their work or anything to do with them other than the Evergreen siege.

30 gregor March 2, 2018 at 9:24 pm

I thought Billy Corgan was interesting.


31 Butler T. Reynolds March 2, 2018 at 1:33 pm

…and while you’re at it, tell me why he’s has so many listeners.

I don’t get Rogan. He comes across as a bit of a dullard to me (not that I’m sharp either, but I don’t have a hit podcast). He interviews interesting people, but I get frustrated by his questions and his side of the conversation.


32 John Hamilton March 2, 2018 at 4:42 pm

What is the significance of one of the most popular podcasts in the country being hosted by an anti-religious, pot-smoking meathead comedian who also thinks the PC-Left is crazy?


33 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 5:07 pm

That there’s a market for basically libertarian talk radio?


34 Daniel March 2, 2018 at 9:51 pm

+1. Better yet, I’d love to see Tyler and Rogan do a swapsie. Tyler interviewed re: Complacent Class on JRE and Rogan interviewed on Conversations about the productivity function of one of heaviest hitters in podcasts. It might just be the sheer oddness of the coupling that has me intrigued at the result.

Never going to happen, but worth asking.


35 Ben March 2, 2018 at 11:43 am

What’s the latest and greatest evidence on the likely impact of marijuana legalization??


36 sine causa March 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm

I second that. Did it reduce crime ? Did it lead to more marijuana use ? did it reduce the cartels’ revenues or did they shift to other drugs. Did it increase more serious drug use ? Did it have an impact on traffic accidents ? Is long term use bad for your health?


37 Joel March 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

varying foundations of value systems and how they extrapolate


38 dearieme March 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

Is the case for free trade still valid in a world of welfare states?


39 JWatts March 2, 2018 at 7:28 pm

Is the case for easy immigration still valid in a world of welfare states?


40 Carl L March 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

Address the scapegoating theory of Rene Girard in general, and its possible application to economics. Peter Thiel has repeatedly cited Girard as an important influence and has even said his theory was partly the reason he invested in Facebook.


41 Jeff March 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm


More generally, the economics of abstinences, fasting, other forms of “self-denial” or sacrifice.


42 Rob March 2, 2018 at 3:57 pm


Specifically, Girard as applied to sacrifice, humor, religion, myth, symbolic systems, intellectual property, remixing, market momentum and bubbles.


43 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Is that all? What about life, the universe, and everything?


44 Per Kurowski March 2, 2018 at 11:45 am

Why do regulators want banks to hold more capital against what, by being perceived as risky has been made more innocous, than against what, because it is perceived as safe, is made much more dangerous?


45 David March 2, 2018 at 11:45 am

The impact of reporting of polls on the outcomes they are supposed to help forecast. That is, the degree of dependence of actual vote outcomes on projections of vote outcomes.


46 Known Fact March 2, 2018 at 3:28 pm

It’s often charged now that polls and surveys are specifically meant to shape opinion, not reflect it or predict it.


47 Winand von Petersdorff March 2, 2018 at 11:49 am

Die Macht der Bilder: How nostalgia for steel shapes trade politics.


48 Morris Applebaum IV March 2, 2018 at 12:04 pm

At least in the United States, it has much more to do with jobs in the rust belt and the electoral college.


49 OneGuy March 2, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Nostalgia? You are aware that we still use steel? You do understand why there is a strategic imperative that we have the industrial capability to meet our own need for steel without depending on foreign supply? You do understand that past administrations that allowed us to get into the present strategic deficit did not have our country’s best interest in mind when they did so?

The real problem goes much deeper. Our trade negotiators have been for 50 plus years or so, idiots. Most of our trade agreements have been negotiated to exploit our citizens and our national interest while favoring political cronies. ALL of our trade agreements should be reviewed and most renegotiated. MAGA!


50 dan1111 March 2, 2018 at 3:27 pm

It’s nostalgia for steel manufacturing, not steel use.

The strategic argument is weak. Lots of countries makes steel. Are we going to be at war with the whole world? Any scenario where we actually had trouble obtaining steel seems far-fetched, and it would require a dramatic geopolitical realignment and major military buildup by our enemies, during which we would have time to ramp up our own capacity. Also, such a major war would almost certainly go nuclear and destroy civilization as we know it, anyway.

The chance that we will need a strategic steelmaking capability is probably not zero, but in a world with lots of risks, this is not something we should be spending billions on. We would be better off developing our capacity to mitigate a major asteroid event.


51 OneGuy March 2, 2018 at 3:38 pm

“The strategic argument is weak. Lots of countries makes steel. Are we going to be at war with the whole world?”

Ahhh! I see you do not understand the strategic problem…


52 Gary Skolnick March 2, 2018 at 11:49 am

I would like to know what to do with 100 million dollars to most improve a 2nd tier city like St. Louis, MO.


53 Fake NYer March 2, 2018 at 1:44 pm



54 OneGuy March 2, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Offer all residents $1000 in drugs of their choice and a one way ticket to LA. It would double the average IQ of both cities and St. Louis would prosper. LA, on the other hand, would never even notice.


55 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 2:12 pm

LA would never notice if their average IQ doubled? Back to Mar-a-Lago with you, Eric.


56 BC March 2, 2018 at 3:34 pm

If this topic is discussed, I would request that one compare all proposals against simply giving the cash to all of St Louis’s residents, either distributed evenly per person or per household. Also, what does it mean to “improve a city”? If all the current residents ended up taking their cash and moving away, would that be an improvement if it maximized residents’ welfare or does their welfare stop counting once they move away so that the future residents that replace them are the people that matter? Conversely, if the city spent the 100M in such a way that it caused gentrification, where current residents were displaced by future residents, then whose welfare matters in defining “improvement”?


57 Tanturn March 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm

How’d Zuckerberg’s donation to Newark work out?


58 Joe In Morgantown March 2, 2018 at 8:38 pm

Like a teardrop in the ocean. Ok, not quite that badly.

That donation was doubled to $200m and spent only to improve public schools. Here is a study:

tldr: English scores increased, but not math scores did not. Existing schools did not improve, but more students went to charters and other good schools.

The study uses two pre-study years as a baseline. I would have liked more– the numbers seem pretty jumpy.


59 Joe In Morgantown March 2, 2018 at 8:39 pm

To clarify: math scores did not improve.


60 Philip Crawford March 2, 2018 at 9:21 pm

If MO would legalize MJ, St. Louis and Kansas would see a size-able improvement in net immigration of (on average) fairly high value workers/entrepreneurs. And it would not cost anywhere near $100 Million.


61 rayward March 2, 2018 at 11:50 am

Which is the ideal student: one who arrives with a strong educational background or one who arrives a blank slate? I ask because of your many blog posts about higher education and because this morning I read the review of Tara Westover’s memoir in the NYT: Reading the review I could not help but wondering whether she was the student or the subject (at BYU, Cambridge, and Harvard). Do read the review (and the book).


62 Pshrnk March 2, 2018 at 12:45 pm

No organism is a blank slate!


63 Michael Stacey March 2, 2018 at 11:51 am

Mysticism and its importance (or not) in contemporary culture
Japanese food (underrated? overrated?)
Conservatism and indigenous cultures
The naturalistic fallacy and contemporary culture wars


64 Jeff March 2, 2018 at 12:33 pm

+1 for economics of mysticism.


65 Sean March 2, 2018 at 11:51 am

How do you measure employee performance in a way that isn’t susceptible to manipulation by the employees who know the rules?


66 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:13 pm

You setup the rules so what you’re measuring and grading on is the actual output you want.

I know, easier said than done in some circumstances, but there it is.


67 shrikanthk March 2, 2018 at 11:52 am

1. More posts on Finance.

2. More posts on economic history. Stuff like Cliometrics

3. Less of cultural commentary. Eg : Whats wrong with India’s caste system, whats wrong with Rust belt culture. I just feel insider knowhow and nuance is lacking in these posts, and they tend to be rather superficial and often plain wrong. That Gidla interview was one of your worst conversations. Because it is one outsider interviewing another outsider.


68 Abersouth March 2, 2018 at 11:52 am

Top 5 favorite movies of all time and why.


69 Mike March 2, 2018 at 11:53 am

1) Counter-intuitive points on trade. Not just that trade is great, or awful, but nuance.

2) How to measure (and build) Social Capital.

3) Applying Economics to more areas that are seemingly off-limits. (Religion? Language? Applying Econ to Math instead of the other way around?)


70 Erik March 2, 2018 at 12:11 pm

> 2) How to measure (and build) Social Capital.


> 3) … Applying Econ to Math …

I don’t see how, math is a way of talking about things. You can use the language of math to understand econ, but I don’t see how you could flip the two. What does the study of choice have to do with ?


71 Jeff March 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Social Capital is a form of signaling, makes possible rent-seeking from employees. Disgusting.


72 Erik March 2, 2018 at 12:52 pm

I mean I guess? In the workplace? Maybe?

You do signaling in a social group, on this forum, even when you’re by yourself to audiences you create in your head.

So maybe you enable rent-seeking from employees (but how, really? I guess you’re really saying that ass-kissers get bigger raises than they deserve?) but signaling seems to be fundamental human behavior.


73 Mike March 2, 2018 at 1:41 pm

I was thinking social capital in terms of communities rather than companies.


74 sine causa March 2, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Nothing useful but coincidentally there’s an axiom of choice in set theory.


75 Mike March 2, 2018 at 1:42 pm


On #3 – Applying Econ to Math. That’s why I’m requesting someone much smarter than me to talk about it. If anyone can figure it out, it’s Tyler. 🙂



76 Kyle M March 3, 2018 at 8:39 am

Mathematicians are certainly influenced by economics. For example, mathematical questions that have relevance to computer science seem to have become more important research areas. Physics and math have long been tied together, but what aspects of physics we are trying to understand is altered by the incentives from changing technology, data, and institutions.


77 JWatts March 2, 2018 at 7:55 pm

“1) Counter-intuitive points on trade. Not just that trade is great, or awful, but nuance.”

Specific numbers on trade. I often hear the study backed fact that NAFTA increased wealth. But it’s less often I hear about the distribution. And from what I’ve read, NAFTA was a net loss for a significant amount of the populace.


78 Ryan McKean March 2, 2018 at 11:56 am

Signaling. Ethereum. Your meditations on effective thinking.


79 arthur March 2, 2018 at 11:56 am

What do you think the economic impact of the Financial Independent/Retire Early movement. (e.g. The people interested in it are usually high earning professionals (software, accounting, finance etc.) so them leaving the workplace might hurt productivity. They are also more DIY even if it’s not as efficient as hiring someone else.


80 bcg March 2, 2018 at 11:57 am

I love interviews between two people who already have a rapport. Any chance of a Bryan Caplan Conversation with Tyler?


81 Tyler Cowen March 2, 2018 at 11:59 am

coming in April…


82 Engineer March 2, 2018 at 11:58 am

The economics of, incentives of, and funding for NGOs. Which are the best and worst? Most and least effective? Why? What’s the most outstanding success achieved by an NGO? How large are NGO efforts, and how is that changing over time?

Oxfam was recently in the news for conducting systematic prostitution. Its a perennial problem with the UN, is it with NGOs?

NGOs are involved in systematically picking up would be immigrants barely outside the 3 Libyan mile limit in the Med and ferrying them to Europe – whose funding that?

What’s the geographic footprint of NGOs? Why?


83 Jeff March 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Along similar lines –

Efficiency or value-added measures of the non-profit sector.

Or, why do non-profits sometimes seem so profitable? Add in “non-profit fascism” – when non-profits extract rents from legislators.


84 Paul March 2, 2018 at 11:59 am

Something more about the general implications of systems like the nascent Chinese social credit score and generalisations of it..

Do societies that are less worried about privacy have a competitive advantage? Could there be an effect on social interaction and interaction with the state similar to the effect that tripadvisor has on restaurants, or that uber and lyft have on taxi customer service? The effects are not completely positive, but on balance I think they have improved these industries.

Our historical exemplars of societies with low privacy emphasise the state at the centre of the panoptican observing citizens while remaining hidden themselves. Correctly implemented, technological tracking of services, employers, employees, and bureaucrats has the potential to be much more like true transparency, with everyone having a more accurate picture of everyone else’s history of behaviour.

Whether you think that this is desirable or not is really about values and preferences, not an objective question. But I think it is objectively likely that a society like this would enjoy a competitive advantage in terms of organising its economy and society. The fundamental biological underpinnings of altruism, co-operation and group selection are so tightly bound to ways of verifying and accounting eusocial behaviour that properly distributed digital records offer big potential payoffs for states, at the cost of individual privacy. The distributed and potentially symmetric nature of information technology makes despotic or totalitarian outcomes less likely.


85 Drea March 3, 2018 at 7:03 pm

Solve for the equilibrium in David Brin’s _The Transparent Society_.


86 Tom Jackson March 2, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Top ten favorite science fiction novels. Also, have you ever read the Wilson-Shea Illuminatus trilogy?


87 M March 2, 2018 at 12:03 pm

What is the conviction rate of crimes against police vs crimes against civilians?


88 M March 2, 2018 at 12:06 pm

What are the quantifiable economic negative externalities of gun ownership? Could we just tax gun ownership at that rate?


89 Erik March 2, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Pure ownership? Probably none.

Firearms use? Probably a little (e.g. shell casing litter, uncomfortable noise, etc.)

Firearms misuse? Sure but laws already exact punishment here.


90 sine causa March 2, 2018 at 1:10 pm

@Erik punishment ? Not necessarily, how many crimes go unsolved ? What about compensation ? What’s your compensation if your kid is killed in a mass shooting ?


91 triclops41 March 2, 2018 at 1:06 pm

I’m pretty confident that idea would be immediately countered with an argument to quantify the net externalities of gun ownership. This would be followed by an interminable argument over how to calculate it.


92 M March 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Opinions on using the mechanism of the central bank giving every man, woman and child of a child of a country money to increase inflation. Seems like it would be less objectionable than other mechanisms.


93 M March 2, 2018 at 12:09 pm

If you think about Open Borders as a brand, what are “they” doing wrong and right that is making the branch less more or less appealing?


94 Anon March 2, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Does there presently exist pervasive racist discrimination which disadvantages certain kinds of individuals?

I’m also interested in more rigorous investigations into what kind of differences exist between male-female pay, and why. It’s my understanding that a woman graduating college today will out-earn her male counterpart, all things equal.

The opportunity costs of Social Secuirty and/or Medicare/caid.


95 Sondre R. March 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Economics of the internet.

Can virtual goods have value?
How is global communiction and coordination influencing logistics / specialization / tax optimization / etc. ?
Will there appear countries on the internet?


96 Austin Sharp March 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

As someone who recently became a regular reader of this blog, there are a lot of concepts that are casually referenced on a regular basis, such as Straussianism or “markets in everything” or “solve for the equilibrium”. I can gather some, and maybe I’m just dumb here, but I would like to have more background or summaries on these and other underlying topics. Or at least, more links to somewhere that can explain them. 🙂


97 Borjigid March 2, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Here’s Tyler’s vocab guide from a few years back: It explains markets in everything, and a few others.

Straussianism is the idea that one should write with multiple layers of meaning, only some of which will be apparent to most of the readership.

Solve for equilibrium means thinking about how others will react to a decision, and what the reaction to the reaction will be, and so on until a stable balance is reached.


98 OneGuy March 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm

“Straussianism is the idea that one should write with multiple layers of meaning, only some of which will be apparent to most of the readership.”

What did you mean by that?


99 Borjigid March 2, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Fair question. I think the best place to start is Strauss himself. He grew up Jewish in interwar Germany, moving to the UK and then US in the ’30s.
Understanding this is crucial, since it explains why he would want to write in a way where his meaning was not immediately obvious.
Compared to normal writing, with it’s focus on communicating unambiguously, Straussianism allows for different readers to get different messages.
Knowing (or suspecting) that an author writes in a Straussian fashion causes the right sort of reader to engage more closely with the text.

Obviously, there are crude ways to incorporate multiple layers of meaning, and more refined ways. In fact, there is a full spectrum.
Famous writers like Tyler will tend towards the refined methods, since they may not always be at liberty to state what they mean bluntly.
For what its worth, I enjoy reading Cowen’s posts, although I’m rarely confident that I’ve grasped everything there. Which is the point, of course.


100 Borjigid March 2, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Looks like my attempt at incorporating a Straussian message was defeated by poor formatting. Fair, Understanding, Compared, Knowing, Obviously, Famous, and For should each start a new line.

101 E March 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

I might put a permanent link to the vocabulary guide prominently on the front page as ‘references’. I bet many people have the same question as Austin and most of them won’t know to read the comments on this particular post to get the answer.


102 RV March 2, 2018 at 12:09 pm

What do you see as the real value of academic conferences today, given that working papers and the internet have made it very easy to disseminate works in progress, get feedback, and collaborate? As a mid-career economist, certainly not a superstar by any metric, my impression is that conferences are largely social in nature, affording me the opportunity to spend time with my friends from grad school and from earlier stages of my career.


103 aMichael March 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

To the extent that public goods exist and thus are under provided by the market, how should society determine the optimal amount to provide of that public good? The answer I’ve gotten from economists on the left is to leave it to the democratic process to determine the amount of public goods to provide, but I find that very unsatisfactory given the shortcomings of voters and political decision-making.

I’m convinced innovation counts as a public good. We have copyright laws to help encourage innovation. But how do you determine how much to spend or regulate to provide more innovation?


104 Engineer March 2, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Venezuela appears to be approaching social collapse. How has this played out historically? What’s the best relatively recent historical experience model to use to think about that ? What’s the expectation of recovery time – best case, typical case?

Assuming North Korea eventually collapses and combines with the South, how do the economics of that play out? Is West / East Germany a useful model? Even the Korean language has diverged materially.


105 kevin english March 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

I would also like to hear Tyler’s take on Venezuela. Seems those of us who are libertarian leaning are doing “I told you so” victory laps at yet another failed socialist experiment.

But what are the real solutions given the current collapse? How could Venezuela restructure her economy to be more market driven? What steps would be applied? What have we learned from the soviet bloc economies that would guide the correct reforms?


106 CD1 March 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm

more “from the comments” posts

nba playoffs picks


107 E March 2, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Maybe a frivolous one:

You used to play chess and learned from that. Modern board/card/dice games sometimes have economic and/or other things to learn; if you spent time playing some good ones your observations, I’d bet, would be interesting. Alternately a survey of what interesting people say about them; if you think that’s more interesting [it’s also likely less time, though you get less of a unique take that way].


108 Gibbous March 2, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Frivolous or not, I think this is an excellent suggestion. I don’t recall Tyler ever saying much about board games other than chess, despite their evolution and rise in popularity over the last couple of decades.


109 Jmcsf March 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm

International Relations, Monetay Policy, Technology. What interesting perspective does Tyler have on the Fashion industry?


110 Robert H March 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

As America polarizes and consensus breaks down, are contrarians less valuable?


111 Mulp March 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

How does cutting costs, always by killing jobs, create jobs?

If costs are cut for making Big Macs, how many more Big Macs does President Trump eat per day? Warren Buffett? The Koch brothers?

Why are individual property rights so harmful to providing housing?

In China, all land is owned by the government, so the government regulations in China are directed at optimizing the use of land to make it most economically productive.

On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly been stymied by the draconian property rights regulations. He fought the government regulations floor years to optimize building a parking lot, but was defeated by government regulations. And today, he can’t optimize the Mexican border by building his wall because he keeps hitting the government regulation road block of not being allowed to take land for the wall.

Should the US deregulate land use by ending individual land ownership and make all land government owned?


112 triclops41 March 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm


Why are trolls so likely to overestimate their cleverness? Dunning-Krugger effect?


113 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:31 pm

Those are all easy questions, no need to bother Tyler about them:

How does cutting costs, always by killing jobs, create jobs?

Creates more overall wealth via higher efficiency, which then results in higher consumption and spending in the long term, while anyone who lost their job gets a more productive one which contributes more to society instead. See also agriculture and people digging ditches with spoons instead of tractors.

If costs are cut for making Big Macs, how many more Big Macs does President Trump eat per day? Warren Buffett? The Koch brothers?

1,0,2, respectively.

Why are individual property rights so harmful to providing housing?

Assumes facts not in evidence. Empirical evidence shows restricting private property rights hurts the housing supply for everyone, especially the poor. See also SF and NYC vs. many others.

In China, all land is owned by the government, so the government regulations in China are directed at optimizing the use of land to make it most economically productive.

Again, assumes facts not in evidence. China is significantly overbuilt with wasteful residential and industrial construction which lays idle, benefiting no one, just pretend wealth. See also USSR and stories about what size/how many nails the factory should make.

On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly been stymied by the draconian property rights regulations. He fought the government regulations floor years to optimize building a parking lot, but was defeated by government regulations. And today, he can’t optimize the Mexican border by building his wall because he keeps hitting the government regulation road block of not being allowed to take land for the wall.

Not stealing people’s property is a societal good.

Should the US deregulate land use by ending individual land ownership and make all land government owned?

No. First, private property isn’t strictly a regulation, it’s a natural right, so it has nothing to do with deregulation. Second, that’s been attempted and failed miserably in the past. See also Plymouth and the Pilgrims, plus for bonus study, the USSR.


114 Jacob March 2, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Epistemic closure, the Death of Expertise, and whether there’s any hope for a synthesis.


115 Jimmy March 2, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Seconded. What do theories of epistemic closure, or cognitive closure, mean for the future of economics?


116 Morris Applebaum IV March 2, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Why isn’t there a major prize or award for business leaders (such as a Nobel Prize or a Hall of Fame”)?


117 Abersouth March 2, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Money and fame/infamy


118 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Yeah successful business leaders get paid pretty well, seems like a decent prize.


119 carlospln March 2, 2018 at 11:14 pm

Ha ha!

Jack Welch? Or Jeffrey Immelt?

How about Robert Nardelli? Ginny Rometti?

So many losers, so little time!


120 dwm8a March 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm
121 Dustin March 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm

The economic (and any other type of) consequences of sustained off-planet colonies.


122 Handle March 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Is Arnold Kling’s Three Languages of Politics holding up these days? The rhetorical tropes employed by the main ideological factions seem to be shifting somewhat. For instance, since Trump began campaigning, it seems to be the progressives that are most prominently deploying civilization vs. barbarism framing. My impression is that the most prominent libertarian commentators these days are actually shying away from explicit freedom vs. coercion talk as a matter of value or rights, preferring alternative points of emphasis for analysis.


123 triclops41 March 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm


Is your impression that the underlying thinking is changing, or that it is just the language being used?

I still see most of the anti-Trump Left using oppressor/oppressed axis language. Virtually never does the opportunity pass by that the Left describes Trump or the “alt-right” without throwing in mentions of sexism and racism.

Haven’t most prominent libertarian commentators tried to argue in ways that would convince conservatives or liberals? Wouldn’t that explain the lack of freedom vs. coercion language? If you are a small minority trying to recruit, you need to speak in the language of the bigger groups.

And on a related note, I think most prominent libertarian commentators are libertarian economists, and not strict natural rights libertarians. I have seen them referring to themselves as “classical liberals” more and more.


124 Eric March 2, 2018 at 12:22 pm

The economics of different climate engineering schemes.


125 TMC March 2, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Some of your more interesting posts have come from lunch conversations with your fellow GMU professors. Which of your commenters would you like to have lunch with?


126 TMC March 2, 2018 at 12:24 pm

I think I’d start with JWatts, msgkings and Willits.


127 Dmitri Helios March 2, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Ray and Thiago all the way


128 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 5:09 pm

And mulp!


129 MDB March 2, 2018 at 12:29 pm

The Economics of Brexit and the links with the economic ideas of Trump and populism generally….


130 doniel March 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

This thing called Modern Monetary Theory, (from what I can tell , a kind of hyper-Keynesianism which seems to promote the counter-intuitive idea that. “why yes, we can print our way out of the problem.” ) It seems designed to troll free-market thinkers..


131 Ben March 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Travel advice for those who lack experience.
Relationship strategies?


132 JF March 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

More nature (flora and fauna) pictures/documentaries


133 JF March 2, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Also a clickbaity question: under what conditions would you vote for Trump in 2020? I cannot imagine you doing so


134 triclops41 March 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

This would be a fun one!

Kinda like how, in every fictional series, the protagonist must team up with the original antagonist to defeat a newer, greater evil. Tyler, what greater evil would you reluctantly team up with Trump?!!!

Cannot say Thanos. Maybe Unicron.


135 Engineer March 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Will France voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons? Why or why not? What does this imply for other currently non-nuclear nations like South Korea, Australia, Japan, Poland, Saudi Arabia?


136 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Don’t know what TC would say but seems like an easy answer to the first: no they won’t, because no one is asking them to and the don’t really gain anything doing so.


137 Fred Flintstone March 2, 2018 at 12:37 pm

How to track and measure innovation. Separating ‘innovation’ from growth, what specific institutions are shown to help innovation, specifically the ones that are necessary for innovation but not for prosperity, how do the two overlap and how do they differ.


138 David Condon March 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Any general comments on innovation diffusion


139 Chris Lawnsby March 2, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Your thoughts on Buddhism!


140 GV March 2, 2018 at 12:45 pm

-Compare gun control policies and gun deaths across countries
-Correlation of guns and violence?
-Economics of assault rifles
-Gun sales and gun lobby
-evolution of Gun rights and the second amendment
-Have we reached a tipping point where effective gun control would fail since there are too many guns in circulation? Have we achieved effective gun control already? What does that look like? When, if ever, is “peak gun” ownership achieved?
-gun game theory- if you have a gun is it safer if i have a gun or is it better to reduce amount of guns for every one


141 Stephen Jones March 2, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Africa. African Economics, african food, african politics. The next century will be theirs.


142 Jer March 2, 2018 at 5:52 pm

Not convinced. Perhaps the century of ‘actualization’ for Africa but not traditional indicators of success except as cheap labour for China, a city and infrastructure testing/financing/development zone for China, and/or tourism/wintering for everyone in the top or bottom 40 degrees of this globe’s latitudes.
There does not appear to be reasonable evidence for any of the integral home-grown manifestations of society potential via Ferguson’s killer apps:
1.Competition, 2.Scientific Revolution, 3.Property Rights, 4.Modern Medicine, 5.Consumer Society, 6.The Work Ethic


143 Engineer March 2, 2018 at 12:47 pm

As pre-natal genetic screening and eventually engineering become cheaper and more reliable, what economic and social effects will we see? (We have already see the virtual elimination of Downs in some populations, and a lot of sex selective abortions in some populations.)

Will dating sites allow/require a genetic screening report? What will constitute a “defect”? How wil this impact the marriage market? Insurance coverage for genetic engineering?


144 Kent Guida March 2, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Great Books. Several of your interlocutors are are clearly opposed, think reading and discussing great works of the past is a waste of time. Robin Hanson in your recent podcast, for example. Steven Pinker, most clearly in a recent piece in Chronicle of Higher Education. From your comments on Pinker’s new book, from Average is Over and numerous remarks I see you do not share these views, and in fact hold views close to mine. This is an important subject that could use a more extensive discussion, and it relates directly to all things philosophical and educational. Of course, many people of a certain sort will disagree with you.


145 Chris Clark March 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

How much do you think the increasing prevalence of synchronous communication technology with impact the growth of distance based education? To me, it seems like Skype and other web-based video communication services would be a boon to distance-based education, but I’m not seeing the growth to support that notion, so I assume I’m missing something. Hopefully, whatever I’m missing is something less depressing than cultural inertia at institutions.


146 The Wart March 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm

My wife is a beautiful woman who laughs not infrequently. Does this make it impossible for us to eat at a good ethnic restaurant?


147 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:33 pm

No, it just means she may be the only one there.


148 Jeff Rensch March 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm

More on Nozick?


149 Travis March 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm

What authors face the biggest gap between being deserving of a Nobel Prize in Literature and actual likelihood to win one.


150 Chris k. March 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm

A review of the work of n.t. wright


151 dan March 2, 2018 at 1:03 pm



152 Ray Lopez March 2, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Some of the more esoteric theories behind intellectual property, beyond the hackneyed basics. Topics include: elasticity of innovation, nature vs nurture in invention, whether innovation is endogenous or exogenous, inevitable discovery, simultaneous invention, whether pioneer inventors are fairly compensated, and the like. Trouble is, to do this requires a real expert in the field, or maybe more than one (like Romer) and most of them in IP are too busy making money in patent law to stop and talk about it, and anyway they’re likely to be talking their book, which is not necessarily a bad thing btw. An example would be M. Lemley: (just look at his c.v., and he got presumably rich off IP too). Lemley is also a foodie and maybe TC can meet him in SF? But again I doubt these guys have the time to invest in a podcast; I could be wrong.


153 Peter M March 2, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Assume Bacevich’s article is factually correct about a US/NATO promise to Russia not to expand. See also What would have been the consequences if NATO did not expand and the US gradually withdrew from NATO


154 Musick-er March 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm

I’ve noticed that you tend to have pretty wide ranging tastes in music, and your recommendation on introduction to classical music was pretty spot-on. I’m wondering what training/expertise you have in music theory/aural skills? When I listen to the Brandenburg Concertos, for instance, the things I appreciate are somewhat technical – setting up the predominant, transition to the dominant, closure of the cadence while maintaining proper voice leading.

As someone who is obviously very intelligent but not a musician (that I know of), I wonder how you interact with Bach or other master composers – what criteria do you listen for? What makes great works stand out from the merely good?


155 edgar March 2, 2018 at 2:21 pm

+1 Tyler recently linked to a review of an Uchida concert that he had attended. I’d never heard her before and was rewarded by the introduction. I think I once saw him at a Juana Molina show too, so I suspect he sees a lot of great artists. I for one also would appreciate more of his music tips.


156 Brad F March 2, 2018 at 1:10 pm

How about a debate between Tyler and Alex? What do you two disagree about?


157 shrikanthk March 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

My sense is –

Alex is more strongly libertarian than Tyler.

Tyler is a bit more sympathetic to Social justice movements than Alex

Tyler is also kinder to the view of cultural conservatives and religion in general than Alex.


158 Jim Gannon March 2, 2018 at 1:12 pm

I would like a deep dive on mood affiliation with lots of examples. You gave us a bit here ( but it’s been a while and it’s a pretty important (and under discussed) topic.


159 Cove99 March 2, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Blood on the Tracks or Blonde on Blonde ?


160 gamma March 2, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Retirement age is being pushed back, by preference or by necessity. As fewer than half the baby boomers have reached traditional retirement age, how does this affect the labor market in various sectors, and what can be expected in the ten years?


161 OccasionalCommenter March 2, 2018 at 1:20 pm

What non-tech, non-political trends are driving society today?


162 AMRIT PAL March 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Existing proxies for antitrust are based on a world where all leverage rested with the supplier (Standard Oil, Steel manufactures, AT&T, etc.). In a digital world with infinite supply and zero marginal cost (think Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon) what are new frameworks to look at anti-trust?


163 collin March 2, 2018 at 1:28 pm



164 Tom March 2, 2018 at 7:40 pm



165 Suttree March 3, 2018 at 12:11 am



166 jrgratz March 3, 2018 at 8:41 pm



167 Larry O. March 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm

What are the economic consequences if anti aging drugs work? How long would it take for their use to become widespread either off-label or underground? Look at Senolytics, Rapamycin, Metformin, NAD+, etc.


168 Jer March 2, 2018 at 6:08 pm

More likely anti-ageing therapies and medical interventions on an intense recurring basis than a prescription program IMHO (similar to later stage cancer programs). Which means the degree of efficacy is proportional to the quality/cost of the limited service providers (and baseline health of the patient) which means huge disparity on the availability of the programs to those in the bottom 75% within rich countries only. Trickle and eventual FDA approval would be decades. Effects on population resuming growth (similar to early 20th century rates) would also be decades away, likely way after baby replacement rates worldwide, in all but the most impoverished countries, would have been surpassed. Work ethic and productivity will decline faster than the increase in number of compensating years willing to be worked in the extended life spans – it would be a time of the Greatest Complacency despite healthy populations and widespread technological availability.


169 collin March 2, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Answer me the riddle: The richer the society becomes the less families can afford children? (Note look at India being at replacement level fertility and it is the rich areas bringing the average down.)

I have three boys and wonder how they are ever going to be able to afford a family of more than 1 children in 2030.


170 collin March 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

One reason why I think birth rates are so important? What is the one variable that large effects on both the AD and AS curves?

Population size and growth.


171 Fake NYer March 2, 2018 at 1:47 pm



172 Thomas March 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

A follow-up to your post about fascism in America is in order. You seem to have taken the easy way out by effectively defining fascism as a state of dictatorship by someone like Hitler. But fascism is really a system in which the government leaves nominal ownership of the means of production in the hands of private individuals but exercises control by means of regulatory legislation and reaps most of the profit by means of heavy taxation. In effect, fascism is simply a more subtle form of government ownership than is socialism. (Definition from this source: By that definition, which gets to the real heart of fascism, the U.S. is and has been at least quasi-fascistic since the New Deal. It is found in the very bureaucracy that you hold up as a shield against fascism.


173 edgar March 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm



174 ed March 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

How does a person develop a good eye for art? Many times when I go to a museum I think, if I saw this piece of art for sale at Marshall’s or a big box store, would I still think it was good or interesting? Often for many pieces (particularly more abstract art where there is no obvious technical skill on display) I find they only seem to work if elevated by their being in a museum. Am I missing something by looking at art this way?

In terms of art markets, what are the differences between the kind of art you appreciate in a museum versus the kind you would want in your home, if any? Where do you go to look at art for purchase? What do you make of the gallery system versus dealing directly with artists? The pricing of art is so difficult, how do you identify what is a good value if you are considering buying something? Are there any good rules of thumb for this? What pieces of art give you the most satisfaction, or keep you going back to them again and again?


175 Erik G Schad March 2, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Will we make it through the next century? If so did complacency help us or hurt us? (complacency overrated or underrated?)


176 Ted Craig March 2, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Again, advice for slow readers.


177 Henrique March 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Economics of tropical forest conservation.
Incentives seem terrible, but even worse is governments’ capacity to provide the necessary funding for protection and/or incentives for sustainable forest management.
Will we really rely on global governance for this unique global public good? What are the prospects? What are their effects? Who can do what?


178 Dave H. Ogg March 2, 2018 at 1:36 pm

You are transported to October 26, 1985, with no warning and no money. You can’t take anything with you but your memories and your nicest suit. How long would it take for you to make a million dollars and how would you do it?

This question is about using your vague knowledge of the past to profit, so you can’t contact friends or family. You can try to persuade people you came from the future as long as you don’t use as evidence anything from your day-to-day life. You can’t sell the suit.


179 Known Fact March 2, 2018 at 5:48 pm

I know Proud Truth won the ’85 Breeder’s Cup at 20-1. That gives me about a week to scrape up some bucks and make it to the track.


180 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:36 pm

Yeah, sports knowledge, betting on super-bowl winners, NBA winners, etc… at the start of the season, seems to be the most sure-fire methodology.

Invention would be another path, although possibly a little bit slower.


181 Daniel Cañueto March 2, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Economics of AI-driven consumer choices.

AI predictions and recommendations of companies are based on previous data, so best predictions are done with most common people groups in total buyers. Intuition is that worse predictions in other groups will progressively make them look for alternatives. Market will tend to different niches to different people groups and very narrow range of choices for each group.

Consequently, the current tendency to society clustering based on ideology will be further expanded to revealed preferences. Vast consequences in sociology, politics, etc.

Straussian thoughts on this?


182 Robert Martinez March 2, 2018 at 1:41 pm

How interesting should an infovore seek to be? Robin Hanson’s “be a seller not a buyer when you’re young” comment got at this – there’s a tension between knowing about and being able to talk about diverse topics, which makes one more interesting. But smart people can perhaps contribute more to the world by specialising and doing/producing more in their field of expertise – of course that can be a path to interestingness but not always, there is a meaningful tradeoff there. You are arguably the most interesting intellectual in the world, but that may in fact be a mild criticism!


183 Robert Martinez March 3, 2018 at 5:34 am

Correction: “there’s a tension between…” should read “infovores are very keen on knowing about and being able to…”


184 Kalim Kassam March 2, 2018 at 1:44 pm


How to think about it. Why it matters. Best books.


185 Amy Clemons Kormendy March 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Average is over: Is there a role for amateur experts in anything anymore? Can a self-educated behavioral economist design and conduct a study, submit it for publication, and contribute substantively to the field? (Asking for a friend.)


186 Sandro Ambuehl March 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Many topics that you cover on your blog is somewhat speculative. I would love to hear your thoughts on the benefits and limits of this kind of speculative analysis. Is it to uncover hypotheses we previously would not have thought about? Is it to highlight that many things are less obvious than they first seem? Or can it actually help us make better predictions and better policy? There’s definitely value to speculative analysis, but it would be really interesting to see the benefits and limits spelled out explicitly.


187 Pedro Cerrano March 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

The implication of California’s (and other states, like Illinois) pension underfunding and what the implications are for future generations. Perhaps interview Joe Nation of SIEPR to get his view. He has estimated a pension shortfall of 1.2 trillion dollars, which is 10x the state budget. He works with Raj Chetty, who you interviewed a while ago.

Further, speak about CalPERs unwillingness to set a decent rate of return for their investment funds. I believe they’ve met their projected ROR once in twenty years. One would think this is fraud, but it happens serially.


188 rebecca li March 2, 2018 at 2:12 pm

In nyc, and I assume many other cities, ebikes have become the vehicle of choice for delivery drivers. There’s probably an interesting story in there about how that’s impacted delivery prices, bike policy, etc…


189 Dean Charette March 2, 2018 at 2:13 pm

What are your favorite Shakespeare film/tv adaptations, by play?


190 J. Ott March 2, 2018 at 2:54 pm

I’ll answer for myself:

Hamlet – Olivier
Romeo & Juliet – Zeffirelli
Henry V – Branagh
Titus Andronicus – Taymor
Richard III – Loncraine / McKellan
Midsummer Night’s Dream – Reinhardt
Macbeth – Polanski or perhaps Throne of Blood
Richard II – Hollow Crown Whishaw / Goold
Henry IV pt 1/2 – Orson Welles’ Falstaff
Merry Wives of Windsor – 2011 Globe Theater Recording, if that counts
As You Like It – Branagh (still waiting for a great filmed version of this play)
Coriolanus – Fiennes
The Tempest – Taymor or perhaps Forbidden Planet or Prospero’s Books
The Taming of the Shrew – Burton/Taylor or perhaps Kiss Me Kate or 10 Things I Hate About You
King Lear – Kurosawa’s Ran
Much Ado – Branagh
Othello – Fishburn/Parker
Merchant of Venice – Pacino/Radford
Twelfth Night – Nunn
Julius Caesar – ?Brando


191 Known Fact March 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm

An Outer Limits episode, The Bellero Shield, John Brahm director, Joseph Stefano at the typewriter. A 1964 sci-fi Macbeth with Sally Kellerman and Martin Landau. “Great men are forgiven their murderous wives,” Landau’s wealthy father proclaims in one great moment


192 Thatguyfrommacau March 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

The influence of war on a country’s non-literary artistic output


193 Sun Rattatat March 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Deep dive(s) on afro-futurism and other art of the diaspora.


194 Drea March 4, 2018 at 6:40 pm



195 formereconomist March 2, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Macrohistory. Where are we in the life cycle of great civilizations? Will America slide into irrelevance, and how long will that take? Who is our Juvenal? What does the world look like with America gone the way of Rome? Does American exceptionalism mean that somehow we can escape the fate of all other empires, and survive indefinitely?
Spengler says no.


196 DB March 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm

When, precisely, is paternalism justifiable?


197 Viking March 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm

The transformation of the US economy (aka “Everything is a profit center”).

My introduction to the US in Texas in 1990 showed pretty good service, and competition for the customers.

1990: Stores enticed the customers by being spacious, and making the shopping experience pleasant.
2018: Costco and Walmart and Home Depot disregard the store design, and crams in a bunch of extra shelves with crap, that causes all kinds of un-needed “traffic jams” and waiting to get where I want to in the store. Costco is the master, when the stores are most packed, they put old ladies giving free samples of various forms of pre fabricated starchy food, causing slow downs.

1990: To entice customers to buy gas, many gas stations offered a free car wash with fill up.
2018: If the car was has not been spun off, a fill up perhaps lowers the price of a car wash from $8 to $7.

1995: To entice me to use my credit card, the issuing bank offers a one payment holiday, that does not expire, allowing me to not pay without incuring any late fees, just the regular interest charges. (This means that forgetting to pay is not penalized too much)
2018: No way, the banks need their fees.

My thesis is that many sectors of the economy was much more competitive in the 1990, and as a side effect, consumers received better service. Also, lots of businesses offered food served or pizza delivered within a certain time, or it is free to consumers.

Question: Why are we becoming more like Europe, where service is not a big priority, except for the Netherlands?


198 carlospln March 2, 2018 at 11:21 pm

According to Mr. Cowen, the USA has no oligopolies, let alone monopolies, and K Street lobbying [influence peddling & bribery] doesn’t exist.

21stC fascism of Big Government and corporations is a figment of one’s imagination.

Please see your doctor.


199 JD March 2, 2018 at 2:30 pm
200 BucketofFried March 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm

A few options:

-What are some good historical indicators of political and social fragmentation? Is the US at a historically high level of fractiousness for the last 50 years? Last 100 years? Or, is it not really that bad?

-Is tribalism a muscle that you flex or a gas tank that you deplete? Put another way, does tribalism in one domain (e.g. sports team affiliation) lead to tribalism in other domains (e.g. politics)? Or, does tribalism in one area serve as a general safety valve?


201 Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. March 2, 2018 at 2:38 pm

I would like to hear more about Brzil’s reforms. I think they are the big story of our generation.


202 Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. March 2, 2018 at 2:39 pm

I would like to hear more about Brazil’s reforms. I think they are the big story of our generation.


203 Charbes A. March 2, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Yes I too want to hear about the inspiring leadership of President Temer


204 Michael Roche March 2, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Why haven’t the Chinese come up with their own mobile operating system?


205 Viking March 2, 2018 at 4:22 pm

It is called Weechat!


206 Tony March 2, 2018 at 2:47 pm

I’d like to read something about brain drain from areas near knowledge centers, and/or about apprenticeship programs targeted to reduce brain drain. I’m thinking here near Boston of the factory city rust belt and RI as examples.


207 Jimmy March 2, 2018 at 2:49 pm

(1) Conversations with Tyler featuring an actual Straussian.

(2) What is the most ideologically / politically diverse city? Which most moderate in that regard? Where in America am I least likely to be in a bubble and why?


208 Andrew March 2, 2018 at 2:50 pm

More about urban economics. Maybe you could have a conversation with Ed Glaeser? or at least give your thoughts on urban agglomeration and the unlevel playing field where certain cities have become mega-winners and others have become losers and it seems impossible to catch up. Buffalo and NYC, Chicago and Peoria, etc.


209 londenio March 2, 2018 at 2:52 pm

1) A time traveler from the future comes. Says he is from 2040. He has five minutes to talk to you. What would you ask? What would be the best question in general? (notice this are likely to be very different questions).

2) What do you think about the main idea of the “Shortest History of Germany”(James Hawes)? (I assume that if you have not read it, you will, given your interests, how short it is, fairly controversial, etc.)

3) In one hundred years, which decade of the 20th century will be remembered as the best one to spend a two week vacation? (I know, another time travel question… these are just ways of asking, not interested in time travel per se)


210 Charbes A. March 2, 2018 at 3:06 pm

3) The 1930’s. I could live as a King while prices fall.


211 Known Fact March 2, 2018 at 4:31 pm

And the guy from 2040 just has his best suit, no cash, and can’t contact his family for help!


212 Charbes A. March 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm

But he memorized a sports almanac…


213 Dan Hanson March 2, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Complexity economics. Complexity and information theory have revolutionized the way we should think about large organizational structures, but it seems that economics is still stuck in the old models of an economy derived from physics in the 19th century. This is a very large topic with many fruitful avenues to explore.


214 Brett Sinclair March 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm

co-sign on this one – my comment (#213) echoes this one.


215 Brett Sinclair March 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm

whoops i guess the comment #s aren’t static – ignore the above reference


216 badpenny March 2, 2018 at 3:14 pm

1) How well do you think Geopolitics explains current world events? What are the key books and thinkers to understand this field? What is the true model of the global world order?

2) What are the “complex connections between libertarianism and neo-reaction” you referred to?

3) Do you agree with the Heterodox Academy’s views on higher ed?

4) What are your predictions for the 2020 election?

Thanks heaps!


217 Neil March 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

You recently posted about the expropriation-without-compensation situation in South Africa: a populist measure recognised by economists as extremely harmful to the very people it appears to be aimed at helping.

I’d have thought the parallels to protectionism would be some fairly fertile territory for you.


218 mike March 2, 2018 at 3:20 pm



219 Kinch ahoy March 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Thinking about the interaction of bodily integrity / violence and wealth. I’d somewhat naively assumed when I was younger the richer / more powerful people got, the more emphasis they’d put on removing the risk of physical violence. I had an entirely peaceful childhood, but it seems between things like schoolyard bullying, date rape and abuse, rich young people don’t have nearly as much immunity from violence as I would expect. The same applies to older folks with domestic violence and police enforcement (obviously there are gender issues at play but not exclusively). Is this cultural? Is Sweden or Japan the world minima for non life treating physical violence (I doubt they are)?

Why don’t rich people use their power to purchase more safety from physical harm for their family? The rate of well off connected people disappearing / dying while on a cruise is higher than I’d have expected, let alone from car accidents. We aren’t talking about physical harm from deliberate choices (rock climbing, piloting, fightclub etc.) – that is much easier to explain. Why is there so much violence inherent in the system even for those who putatively run the system?


220 HIzouse March 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

What is your strategy for reading the comments on MR? You occasionally post something quite insightful you gleaned from the comments, but every time I start perusing them I give up after skimming the first few.


221 dearieme March 2, 2018 at 3:50 pm

The economics of the decision to invent a counterfeit Nobel Prize for Economics.


222 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 4:21 pm

The economics of anonymous pedantic British numbskulls.


223 BC March 2, 2018 at 3:56 pm

I would like to see a more careful discussion about zoning and building restrictions. For example, we often hear that current homeowners have a vested interest in zoning laws to protect home values by restricting supply. However, owners of single homes are also landowners, and any given landowner would seem to benefit by lifting zoning restrictions so that he/she can maximize the value of his/her land. In turn, that raises the possibility that landowners are acting as a cartel, using zoning laws to enforce it. But, is that what’s happening, i.e., if a monopolist were to buy all land in, say, the Bay Area and were free to build as he/she pleased, would resulting housing supply increase, decrease, or remain the same?

Suppose current housing supply is the same as a monopolist would build. How do we distinguish between the following two explanations:

(1) The monopolist is maximizing social value of land. Wealthy people value a small number of homes in low-density neighborhoods more than less wealthy people value a higher number of homes in high-density neighborhoods. Coase theorem applies, and the monopolist has successfully internalized externalities related to housing density.

(2) The monopolist is restricting housing supply below the socially optimal quantity. Land value would increase by dividing the land among many landowners and removing building restrictions.


224 Carlo March 2, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Favorite country musicians.


225 sine causa March 2, 2018 at 4:12 pm

1- are the ballooning budget deficits and the increasing debt a big problem in the future or a manageable one.

2-Can government policies increase productivity growth ? How ?

3- is the US spending too much on Defense? ( 10 times more than the second country I think. )


226 Mark Thorson March 2, 2018 at 4:13 pm

How did you meet your wife, and how are Russian women different from American women?


227 msgkings March 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Why would someone intimately familiar with only one specific Russian woman and no more than a few American women have anything useful to say about the second part?


228 Mark Thorson March 2, 2018 at 6:59 pm

He’s the closest thing to an expert we’ve got.


229 Tanturn March 2, 2018 at 8:05 pm



230 Daniel Weber March 2, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Science invents mind-swap technology. For simplicity, assume that it must be done consensually.

What are the economic impacts?


231 Victoria Wilson March 2, 2018 at 4:25 pm

One explanation for why female labor’s rate of pay remains about 75%80%?) of male labor is the former’s obligations to fulfill domestic tasks; one cannot pay the same to a worker who must run home at the 5 o’clock whistle for daycare pickup and dinner prep versus one who can stay late or travel. There is an implied exchange of wage for societal duties. Are there more examples of this in the marketplace? For instance, is there a study for the choice to pay private school tuition in the expectation that mingling with wealthier parents that will advance your career, increasing your earnings? Or that joining an after work community sport will result in service outcomes like carpooling? Or what is the insurance calculation when a health care policy pays for a reduction in gym club membership?
When formulating these costs versus benefits who are the players? Who’s to benefit? And at who’s expense?


232 mdb1959 March 2, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Has there ever been a serious economic study that attempts to quantify what America and Africa would look like today if slavery had never taken place?


233 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:41 pm

How about, why do people spend so much more time talking about slavery from 150 years ago which is impossible to do anything about without time travel, rather than slavery as it currently exists in the world, about which something beneficial could actually be done?


234 Known Fact March 2, 2018 at 4:43 pm

The changing role of HR departments and HR’s impact on the bottom line


235 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:42 pm

+1. That’s been a huge change, in part driven by regulation/social concerns.


236 Ed March 2, 2018 at 4:47 pm

You read deeply only one discipline. Which do you choose to benefit most from future shallow, cross-disciplinary reading.


237 Dan L March 2, 2018 at 4:58 pm

In the limit of complete political polarization in the US, what is the trade balance between red and blue America? And what would it be without government transfers?


238 Charles March 2, 2018 at 5:11 pm

You’ve often shown admiration for the philosopher Derek Parfit. The first part of his second and last book “On What Matters” argues that reasons for actions are given, not by desires, (he calls this “Subjectivism”) but by objective facts about the world. This pulls the rug from under much of economics, which takes preferences, wants and desires as fundamental to value. Do you agree with Parfit? If so, what is left of normative economics?


239 Just So March 2, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Somewhat similar to Sondre R and aMichael above:

With intellectual property accounting for an increasing share of the economy, has any progress been made in efficient distribution of- and compensation for- IP? My (non-economist) understanding is that while the market for, say toasters, is pretty efficient, the market for books, movies, on patent drugs etc. is not.

How are the chances that economics contributes something useful here in the next, say, 50 years? Or will there be some papers that say “prizes would be good,” a few actual prizes that don’t incentivize much or aren’t collected, and beyond that nothing? Maybe a few more papers saying governments should buy some patents, then they don’t…


240 Alan Goldhammer March 2, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Is ‘JR’ by William Gaddis the best fictional account of finance?


241 Bjartur March 2, 2018 at 5:38 pm

1) Straussianism in One Lesson, and your obsession with Straussianism, and whether & how this list shows signs of Straussianism
2) The coming collapse and rebirth of higher education, with predictions on the timing
3) Get Bryan Caplan to talk about k-12, private schools vs. “free” schools, and the *relative* value of spending on earlier vs later education
4) The Papa-Wassa Chiefy Nduom recommendation that African central banks should own Bitcoin


242 Chris March 2, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Tell us something interesting that we’re unlikely to have previously heard about!


243 Will March 2, 2018 at 5:45 pm



244 DB March 3, 2018 at 1:59 am

You might enjoy Popehat’s take on opera:


245 Gary Steinmetz March 2, 2018 at 5:47 pm

Trump’s announcement to hold a military parade received criticism. In your perspective, why should this announcement receive or not receive criticism?


246 Brett Sinclair March 2, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Biological and thermodynamic interpretations of markets, economies, growth, etc.

Markets as ecosystems.

Growth as the consumption of energy used to embody new information.

Complex adaptive systems approaches, emergence, coarse/fine-graining, etc. The value of diversity – how diverse monocultures (your framing) emerge in these paradigms and the how the degradation of these diverse monocultures (through globalization?) is like reaching higher-entropy states like the heat death of the universe where there are no information pockets.


247 WB March 2, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Provide a list of books that you started but did not finish reading. Explain what made you quit each book. Is there any discernible pattern to your decision to stop reading these books.


248 D March 2, 2018 at 5:57 pm

The rise of the alt-right is the most deliberately ignored, straw-manned, consequential (IMO) topic among the current intelligentsia.

Using their best arguments, why are they wrong?


249 Scott H. March 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm

I would love to see the scientific rational and assumptions for HOV lanes get tested. I see so many accidents snarling up traffic and hurting people that are completely related to the existence of the HOV lane.


250 Thomas Sewell March 2, 2018 at 8:44 pm

+1, another good signaling vs. efficiency discussion.


251 Jer March 2, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Tertiary Education vs. Apprenticeship/Internship. Who got it right, if any, and why (Germany?)?


252 Jer March 2, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Advances in productive collaboration – when will it supersede productive competition? – and why it will mean the end of the current competitive marketplace and redefine collusion.


253 Ziploc March 2, 2018 at 6:26 pm

Your opinion about Reinhold Niebuhr?


254 CP March 2, 2018 at 6:40 pm

How have you applied economic principles to your family life? (i.e. could be strategies you decided ahead of time or strategies you realized in retrospect)


255 Nick March 2, 2018 at 6:41 pm

On your post about Steven Pinker (, you noted at the end

“Overall my main difference with Pinker might be this: I believe there is a certain amount of irreducible “irrationality” (not my preferred term, but borrowing his schema for a moment) in people, and it has to be “put somewhere,” into some doctrine or belief system. That is what makes the whole bundle sustainable. It also means that a move toward greater “Enlightenment” is never without its problematic side, and that a “Counterenlightenment” can be more progressive than it might at first appear.”

Could you go into detail clarifying what you meant here? Some suggested questions for clarification:

1) What exactly did you mean that you temporarily dubbed ‘irrationality’ here, and is there a better word for what you’re describing that you’d prefer?

2) Where does this ‘irrationality’ stem from?

3) What happens if it isn’t ‘put somewhere’?

4) What happens if it IS put somewhere? Can it be partially put somewhere? Can it be portioned out?

5) What are the best doctrines or belief systems to be ‘irrational’ about? Does this change dependent on the dominant doctrine or belief system at the time, or is it always better to be ‘irrational’ about certain things?

6) Is this related to you arguing for giving religions a small but distinct chance of being true, rather than being binary about it and either being deeply religious or a committed atheist?

7) What are you ‘irrational’ about? What do you wish you were ‘irrational’ about? What are most people ‘irrational’ about, and what do you wish they were more ‘irrational’ about?


256 ATH March 2, 2018 at 6:41 pm

Social Security disability benefits. The appeal hearing process. What changes would you make?


257 BenjiC March 2, 2018 at 6:54 pm

I would love a Conversations with Tyler interview with Nick Cave. Or just to know what you think of him.


258 Mzungu wa China March 2, 2018 at 6:55 pm

Africa. I’m a broken record I know but either cover it or don’t because your sporadic engagement is unworthy of your potential and your potential is too great to not put the effort in.


259 jmb March 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm

TC, you’re a master at the art of getting to the point quickly, at leaving unsaid what the reader or listener can fill in for themselves. I’ve noticed this especially in your Conversations with Tyler, where your partners often come across as long winded in comparison. What’s your advice for achieving this? I’d like to improve myself.


260 g ruqqt March 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Every individual’s life expectancy may be precisely measurable if science advances. This will change every aspect of our lives:
what we choose to do each day,
marriage, divorce,
work choices,
religious beliefs,
hiring, firing,
investment saving,
life insurance, health insurance, (can life insurance exist when this comes about?)
to list a few obvious items.
May be a research project.


261 John Ruf March 2, 2018 at 7:16 pm

More discussion of the economics of R&D would be nice.


262 GW March 2, 2018 at 7:20 pm

What do you think of “The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins” by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing?


263 Keenmaster March 2, 2018 at 7:28 pm

I believe the Syrian Genocide, perpetrated by the Assad regime, is a problem to be solved. That is an odd premise to have to state but apparently not in today’s cynical, postmodern world (“They’re all bad!” “It’ll be another Iraq!” “Leave Syrians alone!” – I’m half-waiting for people to type the same apologetic drivel here). It is the foremost problem in foreign policy today. Given that, why has nothing been done about it? Not only are millions of Syrians affected, but the situation in Syria is a threat to our national security. The void of power intentionally created by the Assad regime gave rise to terrorist organizations like ISIS and met Assad’s self-fulfilling prophecy that terrorists were invading Syria (ordinary Syrians rose up against him nonviolently in 2011, including liberals/secularists). Moreover, Russia and Iran are emboldened to sow chaos in the world. The evidence is clear: Ukraine, Brexit (by way of the immigrant crisis), the alt-right, disinformation campaigns, hacking, etc… it doesn’t end there. In fact, Bashar Al Assad is a threat to world peace. He’s a threat to the entire world order which was created post-WWII. I’m appealing to America’s self interest, but let’s not forget that over half a million people have died and millions more injured, displaced, and scarred for life. That’s what the history books will say, and we will ask ourselves how we did nothing for so long. After so many bombs, chemical attacks, torture, rape, displacement, and slaughtering of children…

How do we end it? Personally, I’m in favor of a no-fly zone, but how do we even get there? Popular opinion would have to change. False equivalences and misinformation on Syria litter social media, partly spread by Russian and Syrian trolls. Confusion and this sense that the situation is just “too complex” only favors the genocidal maniac that is Assad. It is being used to wrongly abdicate our collective responsibility to do something. The New York Times, perched on its elitist liberal high-ground, is protecting Obama’s legacy and continues to state that the risks of action in Syria outweigh the rewards. They’ve been saying that from the very beginning of the genocide, and liberals listen. Non-action is in itself an action which should be judged by its results. The result is untold destruction. I lean liberal myself but I am shocked by the empathy deficit on Syria across the political spectrum thusfar.

As a Syrian American, I’m interested in reading your thoughts Tyler.


264 skeptic March 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm

Umm, the moderates in Syria are the Christians, a few wealthy Sunni bussinessmen in Aleppo, Druze, and Alawites (also Kurds–but notice they fight rebels not Syrian gov’t(. They support Assad (and Russia unsurprisingly takes the Christian side). Overwhelming majority of the rebels are genocidal jihadi maniacs. Sorry, not sorry


265 Keenmaster March 2, 2018 at 9:51 pm

So you are saying that the majority of 22 million Syrians are not moderate, and therefore we should do nothing to save them from genocide. Got it. I find that argument contemptuous and I won’t even go down that rabbit hole with you. Let’s be clear, you are pro-genocide*

*of people that you don’t like.

That qualifier doesn’t help much, does it? That is to say nothing of the fact that you are utterly and completely wrong. Syria is the original cradle of civilization. Its people are beautiful, kind, and generous. I witnessed that when I visited every other year leading up to the genocide.

No one deserves genocide. All genocide must be stopped. Arguments invoking characteristics of the population being massacred are invalid.


266 skeptic March 2, 2018 at 10:11 pm

The risk of genocide cones entirely from the rebel side. Many (e.g., Zahran Allouche) have openly embraced it. Assad has made many reconciliations with misguided rebels. The rest are irreconcilable and are being defeated in detail. Sorry, not sorry.


267 Keenmaster March 2, 2018 at 10:47 pm

You are mendaciously ignoring the genocide that is happening right now, because you don’t care about the men, women, and children being massacred. They are sub-human to you and not worthy of consideration. The majority in Syria is subject to an extermination campaign for its dissent. Half a million people have been killed already. Like I said, Assad’s self-fulfilling prophecy and intentional vacuum of power in parts of the country allowed jihadi invaders in. Assad loves jihadis. He funded jihadis which were killing Americans in Iraq to exacerbate the Iraq War. He killed Lebanon’s PM because he realized a long time ago that chaos empowers him, and so he manufactures it. He is a threat to the world. So is Russia. Syrians were saying that Russia’s the devil before it was cool, and no one believed them. Syrians are the canary in the coal mine. We must act now before darkness returns.

268 Engineer March 2, 2018 at 10:26 pm

I don’t have a proposed solution, but I would ask if outside military intervention is required, why shouldn’t the Europeans handle this rather than the US? It’s more or less of in their backyard and I would think their national security interest is greater than ours.

Their chosen lack of military capability is not a viable excuse; as you point out this has been going on for years, more than long enough for them to ramp up capability.

More generally in the context of Tyler’s original question, what are the economic and political limits of the US global policeman role?


269 Keenmaster March 2, 2018 at 10:58 pm

The genocide and its horrendous secondary effects make for an emergency situation. This is not the time to change historical norms. The logistics of intervention are too complex for a European country to take the lead. Maybe Europe should be stronger, I absolutely concur. The most France can handle on its own is Mali. We can’t change that now, but the fabric of civilization is being torn apart as we speak. UK and France were ready to get behind Obama in Syria, and he chose to do nothing. America must act now.


270 skeptic March 2, 2018 at 11:38 pm

I don’t deny that Assad is a dictatorial, brutal leader. But that’s no reason to replace him with actually genocidal jihadi maniacs, which is what 99% of the rebels are (let’s be accurate and put Kurds in a 3rd camp). Moneyed Sunnis support Assad, weirdo lefty Sunnis are dead or totally, totally militarily irrelevant.


271 Keenmaster March 3, 2018 at 12:37 am

Syrians want freedom, including from the jihadis that have been killing them more than anyone. ISIS has killed far more Syrians than anyone else. Salafism is a foreign ideology to the vast, vast majority of Syrians, and you’re basically painting them all with that stroke. That is not trivial, because you are ascribing to an entire group of people an ideology that they want no part of and are in fact victims of. Assad has allowed Salafists to rape and plunder Syria, but no where nearly as much as the Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, and foreign militias. You continue not to acknowledge Assad’s genocide and the 500,000 killed. Doing so would bring to light that you believe the 500,000 which were exterminated were sub-humans, because that is a pre-requisite to thinking that there are worse alternatives in Syria.

272 R March 2, 2018 at 7:53 pm

How about a long term analysis on how you’ve determined your daily assorted link posts? What trends have there been? More towards economics over time or pop culture? Why so.


273 Tanturn March 2, 2018 at 8:08 pm

A conversation with Steve Sailer.

Also more about crispr and what its consequences will be.


274 Keenmaster March 2, 2018 at 8:12 pm

+1 on CRISPR


275 Cory March 2, 2018 at 8:26 pm

What are some good references for the study of ‘tenth-man’ or ‘devil advocate’ style of group discussion and its history, study, and acceptance in different cultures? Is it a social convention or is it an evolved system in the brain that may cause people to take the contrarian view, even if it is not their initial personal view, to prevent groupthink and catastrophic mistakes?

Is there a better econ-jargon way of explaining that if everyone is in agreement on an important topic then it may be in our best interests to have someone do their best to defend an opposing view?


276 Middle aged vet . . . March 2, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Why oh why have I mentioned that special smell – Finnish pine woods, balsam from Lebanon, I don’t know – that the fresh copies of the Lord or the Rings paperbacks had back in the day – why have I asked on dozens (well, to tell the truth, 3) of websites if anybody else remembers that smell, and why has nobody answered? There are billions of people on this earth and if only a tiny fraction read sincere requests for such information on websites that are (and I quote) “among the best economics blogs on the web” – well, what explains the lack of an answer?

Ok, was “Sydney or the Bush” a real thing or just an inside joke between Schulz and Snoopy (and maybe Woodstock).

Also, am I the only person who did not know that the Dilbert guy and the Far Side guy were different people, before the Dilbert guy got famous for figuring out he could explain Trump like almost nobody else? Seriously, I used to think that the Dilbert guy and the Far Side guy, if you woke them up from a deep sleep on an international flight, would have to spend a few dazed moments to figure out which of the two they were if you asked them. I sure couldn’t tell the difference.

My favorite Hemingway Novel is, according to almost everyone on “the web”, almost everyone’s least favorite (ditto on my favorite Joyce novel). (Across the River (kidding, maybe) and Finnegans Wake (not kidding, not at all)). Who is right, me or the web?

How much of what we read on “Crazy Days and Nights” is true?

Is there anyone who can read the Bible straight through while trying his or her hardest to remember the saddest people who have been kind to them and who still thinks Adam and Eve were not real people? Is there this thing where everybody’s life has been fantastically easy and they, unlike me, can easily imagine that nothing as spectacularly correct as those days back in the Garden, when Eve had a fascinating personality with no quirkiness, ever happened? (If English is not your native language – that sentence has no grammatical errors. Every once in a while an English sentence, like a Latin sentence or like a Japanese sentence or like a sentence from one of those languages you only remember from those dreams you used to dream when you could eat a whole pizza, with sausage and spices, right before bed and still have a good night’s sleep: everyone once in a while an English sentence, too, needs to be reread twice, because you were not sitting around with friends, with the context of everything you and your friends have been talking about for the last couple of hours as context to help you out, as help.)

Am I the only person who knows that Duke Ellington’s early Cotton Club recordings are worse than Lawrence Welk on a not very good day, whereas his later versions of each song he recorded in those early sessions are real good, great jazz, jazz almost at its best (thanks Rob Bamberger for playing them on your pre-house rent party show last week).

How many living people, with a very bad or very good moral choice, are likely to either (a) significantly hasten or (b) significantly delay the Apocalypse? My best guess is a few hundred, but I would not be surprised if the number were much lower or much higher (zero or here comes everybody). INANYEVENT, we should all be kind (mitis) and careful (magnanimus), of course.


277 Middle aged vet . . . March 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm

Efim Polenov said:

since one can never anticipate the effort of an answer to questions that are not of immediate importance, and that is all right, in view of all the efforts that the trillions of us who have been endowed with free will since the beginning of time have made, to answer the call when the call was heard, so many more often times than one could describe, sequitur tam … (sequitur enim? Housman would know….)

nobody cares much, there are gazillions of smells with special associations, your associations are not, perhaps, as important in this world as they would need to be to generate a single answer on a common website (this is not the tragedy of the commons one is describing, just a phenomenon that can easily be described by simple statistics ) (as the effort to describe them might signify, as Eco might have said, I miss the little guy, even with his spectacular gaps and faults)

A real thing


The web is never right, qua the web, when the controversy centers on aesthetics, if a person who has thoughtfully experienced an artistic insight (cor ad cor loquitur) opposes her or his opinion against the web, qua the web

Quien sabe?



here comes everybody is the correct answer, if the question has been phrased correctly (I think it has but I have been wrong before)


278 Middle aged vet . . . March 2, 2018 at 9:07 pm

It is not a fit night out for man nor beast


279 Middle aged vet . . . March 2, 2018 at 9:09 pm

sorry left out the quotes “it is not a fit night out for man nor beast” – W.C. Fields.

sounds better with the dulcimer accompaniment


280 Iluvtacos March 2, 2018 at 8:29 pm

The economics and impact of Internet porn.
(Porn Sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.)

The economics and impact of video games. (global industry value higher than music and movies combined but gets far less attention. Probably due to users skewing young.)


281 Vinnie March 2, 2018 at 8:35 pm

Prompted in part by a headline today but something that’s been kicking around in my head for a while: How soon, if ever, do you expect mainstream adoption of English gender-neutral pronouns? The momentum for them seems to continue building, but they still seem to be confined to specific subcultures or movements within academia. However, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that we could see their usage rapidly spread within the next five to ten years. I see two likely avenues for this to occur:

1) A major university adopts their use as policy for official communications, and a bunch of peer and rival schools follow suit, eventually becoming the preferred practice in major academic journals and ultimately spilling over into the dominant pedagogy of public education.

2) A popular media outlet — say, something like Vox, Slate, Rolling Stone, or Buzzfeed; I’m not expecting it would be e.g. the New York Times or NBC — decides to adopt gender-neutral pronouns as official editorial policy. (It might not take even that — just one influential and well-entrenched writer on staff could potentially start the ball rolling.) Other peer and rival publications follow suit, and eventually the New York Timeses and NBCs of the media word feel compelled to do the same, at least in specific contexts.

I lean toward the latter being more likely both to occur and to result in broader usage of the terms. In either case, there would no doubt be a ton of backlash and intergenerational scorn, but I think it would be simultaneously more intense and easier for detractors to tune out in the first scenario.

Or maybe the movement takes off outside the US and eventually spreads here?

Anyway, this probably would’ve been more appropriate as a suggestion for your conversation with Stephen Pinker, but I didn’t think of posting it then. I guess this is largely about trying to goad you into a prediction, but it also seems like one of those non-economics topics to which you could apply economic thinking to speculate how this could or couldn’t transpire.


282 Philip Crawford March 2, 2018 at 9:23 pm

I’d like to hear predictions or analysis of where we are headed with the consumption of meat. I asked this related question 5 years ago.


283 HG March 2, 2018 at 9:31 pm

Economic mysteries, baffling circumstances, non-intuitive markets.


284 Andy March 2, 2018 at 11:17 pm

It would be nice to get a post on your up-to-date thoughts on microfinance. I recently went through the archives on this topic, you wrote a whole article on it in 2008, followed the issue closely through 2014 or so, not a lot since. What’s your latest feel for this area? Are the randomistas right: it’s all worthless (paraphrasing)? Or is there more to the story? David Roodman seems to have lost interest. Worth noting that there is some interesting fintech attention to this area, it’s not all Stripe and Peter Thiel you know


285 TomStarke March 2, 2018 at 11:48 pm

The marginal economic impact of ACE scores and the policies that would most reduce ACE scores.


286 Urstoff March 2, 2018 at 11:49 pm

Applied epistemology


287 Carlo March 3, 2018 at 12:09 am

How much does Trump raise our nuclear war odds with Russia?


288 Known Fact March 3, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Or lower them perhaps


289 Carlo March 3, 2018 at 12:21 am

What are the odds that there was a civilization of smart “dinausars” millions of years ago? Would we know if there were?


290 Mark Thorson March 3, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Considering they had brains about the size of a walnut, not too likely. Granted some had two brains, one in the front and one in the back, but the rear brain was probably mostly concerned with running, kicking, that kind of thing.


291 clamence March 3, 2018 at 12:38 am

What provides meaning in your life? Trivia, understanding complex abstract concepts, eating at obscure strip mall restaurants, traveling, blogging, signaling (see blogging), reading garbage on Twitter, religion, deism, athiesm, what is it that keeps you alive and kicking???


292 JP March 3, 2018 at 12:41 am

Karl Ove, Book 5.

I liked the Neapolitan series too. But I think you’ve been a bit unfair on My Struggle past book 2. 50 pages of any part on that series and its hard not to look at the world differently.


293 Carlo March 3, 2018 at 1:10 am

Favorite comedians.


294 Suttree March 3, 2018 at 1:21 am

What are the various approaches to evaluating, under libertarian principles, rights to wealth transmitted inter-generationally? Giving primacy to the individual, and a limited role for state intervention, at first glance, suggests maximal freedom of choice and non-interference by society with bequests. The owner of property can dispose of it how he/she wishes during life and so, by deciding in advance, likewise after death. But then, why are there rights to the property for the inheritors, particularly with respect to the rest of the living? To a non-libertarian, much of the project, while attractive in principle, often appears as so much window dressing for those with dreams of dominance and establishing new aristocracies. Or at least protecting dim-witted or unenergetic offspring from market outcomes…not trying to imply any connection between Trumps and libertarianism, but for example, from the mechanism by which a Don Jr enjoys the once-just desserts of an enterprising Fred.

I can see a utilitarian argument for not interfering with inheritance because, ex ante, certain people are motivated by a desire to take care of descendants or establish aristocracies of a sort, and so we promote wealth creation by letting them rest easy that wealth will persist through generations. But what is the libertarian argument? Why shouldn’t individuals with equal rights start on a more equal footing? Each generation created anew, so to speak.

Of course, to prevent the descendants from inheriting would likely as a practical matter require state involvement with property transferring thereto upon death. Is this confiscation? If so, on counterargument may be that we recognize the rights of the dead, or that we should conceive of wills as a contract between two parties, one side of which is still alive. Or is the concern really dread of resources being misused by the government (current policy offers a workaround from wealth flowing to government in the case of the partial intervention of estate taxes incentivizing bequests to charities and creation of foundations, which perhaps provide indirect support to heirs through jobs or reputational benefits, but perhaps not unlimited control of the resources they did not earn).

I think of Greg Clark’s (potential Talks with Tyler suggestion by the way) comment on his Son Also Rises, that his libertarianism was tempered by seeing the persistence of wealth and social class through generations (as he suggested perhaps through genetic, social connections, culture and habit or other mechanisms) even in high-tax social democratic Sacandinavian, or confiscatory Communist Chinese, regimes. Though that seems to again be a consequentialist approach focused on saying that the utilitarian argument I proposed above doesn’t matter in the real world based on evidence he has evaluated. In any event, is there a literature or debate among libertarian thinkers on the topic? And looking forward to hopefully reading your thoughts.


295 Suttree March 3, 2018 at 1:29 am

*in last sentence of first paragraph, ignore the “from” before “the mechanism”
**near top of third paragraph, after “is this confiscation?”, next sentence should be revised to start with “If so, one argument therefore…” not “counterargument”


296 Andreas March 3, 2018 at 2:18 am

Virtual stimuli for the brain’s reward center (e.g. chemicals, internet) are getting improved at an ever faster pace. Will they be crowding out interest in real achievements like material well-being, finding the right partner? Would a utilitarian welcome this? Or should even physiologically harmless virtual stimuli be regulated to maintain human progress in the real world?


297 Mark March 3, 2018 at 3:15 am

China politics


298 Melmoth March 3, 2018 at 4:36 am

The nature and future of work, especially corporate work. Despite the prominence in such discussions of various enthusiastic silicon valley types (most of whom claim the title ‘entrepreneur’), it seems most tertiary educated corporate workers find their work to lie somewhere on a range from drudgery to misery most of the time. Is our structure of work still too rigid and locked into an industrial model.

I’m struck reading Pepys’ diary – the journal of a high powered urban professional of his time – of the deep differences in the structure of working time and the nature of work. He spends hardly any time in the office (given, with not even a typewriter or telephone it wasn’t a very productive place to be), spends most of his days meeting people in public houses and coffee houses, ‘works’ nearly every day of the week, has no vacations, never talks of commuting or being late, neither complains about overwork nor of drudgery or boredom.


299 Prakash March 3, 2018 at 6:00 am

Cantillon effects- does it matter who gets newly created money first? The current system gives newly created money to those who have already good collateral with them. This makes Austrians complain about fiat money making the rich richer. A thought experiment – if there were a law that forced all new creation of money only via direct federal collateral-free loans to people, then does that make things better, worse, same? The interest of this loan basically becomes the new policy instrument, that is immune to the zero bound. Zero interest loans to everyone is basically close to post-scarcity.

2. If human capital is going to be the driver of growth in the future, then to keep people investing, might it become necessary to create some equity like instrument for people or will we have to continue using proxies like urban land, government bonds and equity in companies that are exceptionally good at managing talent?


300 Bakabon March 3, 2018 at 8:00 am

What is your favorite Euro-style board game? Mine is Terra Mystica, or its latest spin-off, Gaia Project, both amazing at modeling peaceful economic development.


301 Kurtis L March 3, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Your views on the rise of social entrepreneurship/impact investing in development. Implications? This is particularly relevant this week given the bill introduced in Congress proposing the establishment of a new US development finance corporation:


302 Smith March 3, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Is the gender pay gap now a last mile problem?

So, do you agree or disagree with this analysis. The GPG is relatively low is many countries, and there are no more major supply side of technology innovations like the pill, large LFPR for women increase, 1980s tax cuts etc available. At the margin many women may conclude that extra time with their children is worth more than extra work, which means that changing workplace culture and structure to make work flexible for working mothers (per Goldin) will not be demanded or implemented to the extent required to reach a zero gap. The gap may close a little but the massive progress of the last century is basically as much as we are going to get. Any further progress would be too costly in other ways for the individuals involved.


303 Evan March 3, 2018 at 12:22 pm

I would like to hear your thoughts on the economic uses of space. It is possible we are on the cusp of a major decline in the cost to launch things into space. What do you make of the implications of that? Do you expect space (beyond low-Earth orbit) to become economically useful during your lifetime? What are the most overrated and underrated stories we hear about extending the human sphere into space? Thank you.


304 Thales March 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Your thoughts on the economic value of an education given the disruption of industries and creation of new ones in the last decade. Does an education carry the same value it used to? Thank you for all that you do.


305 Alex March 3, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Meditation; Buddhism; psychoanalysis; cognitive behavioral therapy.


306 Chuck March 3, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Flaws in current measures of economic activity – esp inflation, productivity, employment, output.

How do these flaws manifest in economic policy – monetary or otherwise? What are some alternative measures?

* * * * *
Is there more obsolescence – planned or otherwise? What impact may this have?

* * * * *
Are US industries structurally more profitable than other developed markets? Why?


307 Known Fact March 3, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Good topic — Innocent flaws and also deliberate manipulations


308 Dean Kaufman March 3, 2018 at 3:02 pm

The correlation between the rise of homelessness and the enactment of residential landlord tenant laws in the ’70s and ’80s “protecting” tenants from “exploitation” by landlords. Although few would argue that “Bad breath is better than no breath at all”, most (blue) states have concluded, by enforcing minimum “habitability” standards, and thus increasing rents, that “bad” housing is worse than no housing at all…better to sleep on the sidewalk than in a “slum” home, lacking “freedom at all times from vermin”, or a leaky roof in one corner of an old single wide, covered with a blue tarp.


309 Daniel Frank March 3, 2018 at 6:33 pm

1) What are your thoughts on the MR community as a whole? Has there ever been a MR meetup? Should there be?
2) Are there any causes that you feel strongly about to the point of actively campaigning for it (ie trying to change zoning policy)
3) What are your favourite non-fiction books (non-philosophy) written between 1900-1990? Why do so few people today read non-fiction books more than 25 years old?
4) what topics do you wish your in-group cared/spoke more about?


310 lawrence R March 3, 2018 at 6:53 pm

Embodied cognition & Predictive processing (eg. Andy Clark)
Moving between network representations and hierarchical representations of the same knowledge area to drive insight
‘Medial neglect’ / ‘neorationalism’ from the blogosphere or
RP Wolff’s recent lecture series on Kant’s critique- his succinct restatement of the argument.
Meillassoux, Harman and the rejection of ‘correlationism’
Dispositional rather than directive strategies in complex environments (e.g. Cyenfin)
The immaturity of language (Cormac McCarthy on Kekule)
Where the Bayesians will take us.
Henry James, Panpsychism and CS Pierce – under or overrated ?


311 Brad March 3, 2018 at 7:02 pm

The best way to teach yourself art history. Or alternately the best way to navigate a museum with limited information.


312 Jack March 3, 2018 at 7:06 pm

How should we help the homeless? Mainly focused on NYC as the problem is easily visible here. Giving to homeless on the streets or in the subway seems to increase the incentive to stay on the streets rather than in shelters. There’s also the reality that many of the problems that cause homelessness cannot be fixed by money alone. On the other hand, emotions tend to favor giving. I’ve heard the case by case basis explanation, but that seems to be a weak answer.


313 Russ Wood March 3, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Please expand on your thoughts about whites opposing certain societal and/or legal changes, because they involve loss of status. I see the dynamic as more driven by (1) commitment to tradition or just familiarity, and (2) values relating to commitment to Constitutional principles, including equality of legal treatment — almost all the opposed changes involve favoritism toward some (allegedly) underprivileged group.


314 Ryan T March 3, 2018 at 10:48 pm

What might a game theory analysis suggest we should expect re: the weaponization of space? Is the increasing rise of admin in universities actually ridiculous, or does it just seem so to professors? Is the assassination of JFK and its aftermath the weirdest thing that ever happened? Kubrick is maybe the greatest filmmaker, often described as such, and yet he seems underrated and neglected — how is that possible and why has it happened? Can secret services be reigned in and if so how? (I sometimes wonder if a faster declassification process might be an effective nudge.)

More posts on books and literature, music, travel, city planning, Shakespeare.

More old school content — claims my Russian wife laughs at — and old school content revisited, maybe a running series of ten years on posts could work, though I’d really like to see more on the invasion of Iraq.

I can’t recall reading a single post about beards. #Opportunity.


315 Ryan T March 3, 2018 at 10:50 pm

I recall that you once said movements should be evaluated by their best representatives rather than dismissed by the thoughts of their weakest representatives. By that measure, what movements should rise and decline in status?


316 Elite March 3, 2018 at 11:55 pm

“Software is eating the world”. How specifically will the world change as a result of that?


317 Vaidas Urba March 4, 2018 at 8:07 am

Is the economy already at a full employment? Is it possible to achieve a 2% inflation targeting while avoiding overheating?


318 David Gretzschel March 4, 2018 at 2:15 pm

The ideas of Rolf Peter Sieferle. He lost his reputation after publishing a book critical of Germany’s immigration policy and
then more so after his posthumously published discount-Nietzsche aphorisms as ‘Finis Germania’.
These were critical about Israel and current German “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” (in Germany this means people will immediately put you into the Nazi/Antisemite corner).
They were also a big scandal as it won a book award by one journalist, who liked it a lot, semilegally giving it all his votes.
That’s boring, though.

I was fascinated by his work “Lehren aus der Vergangenheit” for a Federal science institution.
Puportedly about ideas for transforming Germany into a ‘climate friendly society’, it really is an grand attempt of explaining,
why some civilizations make it thru some stages, stay there or fall back down again. Going thru all of world history and making plausible claims about pre-history.
For example why so many civilizations, that possibly could have industrialze, did not.
He explains the reason why China did not industrialize first, as that they were already perfectly adapted with their level of tech
to the available land usage, meaning they maxed out their population numbers and didn’t have the flexibility or need to try risky new things
(probably butchering this perspective, sorry).

He’s mostly known for establishing the ‘energetic theory of enviromental history’. Most of his works are not translated into English,
but his most influential work “Der unterirdische Wald. Energiekrise und industrielle Revolution” is.
I believe him to be underrated in Germany (where his reputation fell prey to the current PC culture (and the morons, who decided to publish ‘Finis Germania’))
and definitely underrated everywhere else, as nobody knows him there.


319 Doubtful March 4, 2018 at 2:22 pm

Does Phil Tetlock have a valid point when he claims
pundits who write books, columns and blogs have
no interest in entering his Good Judgment Open
forecasting challenges because of how often they
are wrong and thus have more to lose than gain by
by documenting their record?


320 Greg March 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Do corporations still have a meaningful


321 Greg March 4, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Do big corporations still have a meaningful advantage in terms of internal versus external switching costs? Related, how are they doing at adopting market style mechanisms internally? No one talks about prediction markets any more, it seems.


322 Jonathan Goldstein March 4, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Two issues:

I want to know more about the economics of Girl Scout cookies. Who makes them? Who profits from them? There’s a huge fun story behind this product.

I also would like to know more about the economics of AAA – the American Automobile Association. It seems like a huge insurance business with a self-perpetuating board that has a roadside assistance service tacked on. What’s up with that?


323 sixx March 5, 2018 at 5:13 am

What would be a possible transition path to an automated (robotized) world from an economic perspective and how such society would look like when it gets there. Using a really layman example if my human abilities are inferior to what a “robot” can accomplish then what asset of mine I’m supposed to trade to buy me a “robot” to help me with my daily routines. Alternatively what would a “robot” producer would be willing to trade it against if the machine could basically produce him the goods he want. Is it going to be a really divided society with just few people controlling the production tools (“robots”) and resources and trading among themselves with the state taxing them and distributing to the rest who do nothing. What would be the incentives to want to be part of the one or the other group?


324 WJ March 5, 2018 at 9:14 am

I would be interested in seeing if anyone has looked at why US universities are recruiting so many students from China and so few, relatively, from India. 362k vs. 207k, respectively, if this site is accurate:

Indian students come to the US with better English skills, seem to assimilate more quickly and, as a result, should be easier to place with US companies. Plus, in terms of governments, shouldn’t we be helping out India more than China?

I get that China has had a bigger surge in wealth, and more families in China are able to send their kids to a US school and pay full tuition, which effectively subsidizes in-state students at public universities in particular. But we are talking about hundreds of thousands from two nations that have over a billion citizens. It should be easy enough to attract a high number of Indian students and get the additional benefits of doing so, no? Are there benefits to recruiting more Chinese students that I am unaware of?


325 Stephen wahrhaftig March 5, 2018 at 11:08 pm

What are the chances of getting third and fourth party involvement by moving away from a ‘winner take all’ voting system, as Maine and some US cities plan to do (or have done)? Since the main parties stand for little other than opposition to the idea of others, it would be nice to encourage some new voices.


326 Philo March 7, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Tell us about whatever strikes your fancy. Expand our horizons!


327 Eric March 11, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Any comments on language learning as an adult? Either specific to learning German or general.


328 Brad March 11, 2018 at 10:35 pm


Particularly, best ways to learn, best ways to teach children.


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