Results for “400”
997 found

Effective altruism in 1400

A loyal MR reader writes to me:

If you taught the principles of effective altruism to a rich person in (say) 1400, what would they have thought was the most effective thing to do with their money?  What was in fact the most effective thing they could have done?

I say send some money to Henry IV.  On the year 1400 Wikipedia notes:

January – Henry IV of England quells the Epiphany Rising and executes the Earls of Kent, Huntingdon and Salisbury and the Baron le Despencer for their attempt to have Richard II restored as king.

England and the Industrial Revolution seemed to have worked out OK, and besides the Henriad provides some of Shakespeare’s most profound work, Orson Welles too.

I think you can see the problem.

But what would a rational Effective Altruist have thought at the time?  How about revising those early versions of the Poor Laws?

Alternatively, 1400 also was the year Chaucer died, and he was a pretty smart guy.  Since he worked for Henry’s father and was close to him, he might have given good advice, if only for self-interested reasons.  But who in 1400 was the best or most logical representative of Effective Altruism?  The theologian Alan of Lynn?  He might have told you to invest the money in making indexes of books, which seemed to be his main interestJean Gerson, if one looks to France for a thought leader, focused his energies to reconciling the Great Schism in the papacy.  Good idea or bad?  As Zhou Enlai said

The origins of the Forbes 400

Here is another interesting passage from the newly published Kaplan and Rauh paper “It’s the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent“:

…the percent [of the Forbes 400] that grew up wealthy fell from 60 to 32 percent while the percent that grew up with some money in the family rose by a similar amount.  The percent who grew up with little or no wealth remained about flat.

That is from 1982 to 2011, by the way.  The overall tendency is this:

Overall, Figures 5 and 6 show a trend in the Forbes 400 list away from people who grew up wealthy and inherited businesses towards those who grew up with more modest wealth in the family and started their own businesses.  These changes largely occurred between 1982 and 2001…

Access to education also appears to be of increasing importance.  The share of the Forbes 400 who graduated from college rose from 77 to 87 percent between 1982 and 2011.  The share of college dropouts (like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg) also rose from 6 to 8 percent.  At the same time, the share of those without any college dropped markedly from 17 to 5 percent.

I view it this way.  Generational connections now matter less and starting with lots of working capital matters less.  Smarts, drive, and education all matter more.

Emergent Ventures India, new winners, third Indian cohort

Angad Daryani / Praan

Angad Daryani is 22-year-old social entrepreneur and inventor from Mumbai, and his goal is to find solutions for clean air at a low cost, accessible to all. He received his EV grant to build ultra-low cost, filter-less outdoor air purification systems for deployment in open areas through his startup Praan. Angad’s work was recently covered by the BBC here.

Swasthik Padma

Swasthik Padma is a 19-year-old inventor and researcher. He received his EV grant to develop PLASCRETE, a high-strength composite material made from non-recyclable plastic (post-consumer plastic waste which consists of Multilayer, Film Grade Plastics and Sand) in a device called PLASCREATOR, also developed by Swasthik. The final product serves as a stronger, cost-effective, non-corrosive, and sustainable alternative to concrete and wood as a building material. He is also working on agritech solutions, desalination devices, and low cost solutions to combat climate change.

Ajay Shah

Ajay Shah is an economist, the founder of the LEAP blog, and the coauthor (with Vijay Kelkar) of In Service of the Republic: The Art and Science of Economic Policy, an excellent book, covered by Alex here. He received his EV grant for creating a community of scholars and policymakers to work on vaccine production, distribution, and pricing, and the role of the government and private sector given India’s state capacity.

Meghraj Suthar

Meghraj Suthar, is an entrepreneur, software engineer, and author from Jodhpur. He founded Localites, a global community (6,000 members from more than 130 countries) of travelers and those who like to show around their cities to travelers for free or on an hourly charge. He also writes inspirational fiction. He has published two books: The Dreamers and The Believers and is working on his next book. He received his EV grant to develop his new project Growcify– helping small & medium-sized businesses in smaller Indian cities to go online with their own end-to-end integrated e-commerce app at very affordable pricing.

Jamie Martin/ The Queen’s English 

Jamie Martin and Sandeep Mallareddy founded The Queen’s English to develop a tool to help speak English. Indians who speak English earn 5x more than those who don’t. The Queen’s English provides 300 hours of totally scripted lesson plans on a simple Android app for high quality teaching by allowing anyone who can speak English to teach high quality spoken English lessons using just a mobile phone.

Rubén Poblete-Cazenave

Rubén Poblete-Cazenave is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His work has focused on studying topics on political economy, development economics and economics of crime, with a particular interest in India. Rubén received his EV grant to study the dynamic effects of lockdowns on criminal activity and police performance in Bihar, and on violence against women in India.

Chandra Bhan Prasad

Chandra Bhan Prasad is an Indian scholar, political commentator, and author of the Bhopal Document, Dalit Phobia: Why Do They Hate Us?, What is Ambedkarism?, Dalit Diary, 1999-2003: Reflections on Apartheid in India, and co-author author (with D Shyam Babu and Devesh Kapur) of Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of the ByDalits.com e-commerce platform and the editor of Dalit Enterprise magazine. He received his EV grant to pursue his research on Dalit capitalism as a movement for self-respect.

Praveen Tiwari

Praveen Tiwari is a rural education entrepreneur in India. At 17, he started Power of Youth to increase education and awareness among rural students in his district. To cope with the Covid lockdown he started the Study Garh with a YouTube channel to provide better quality educational content to rural students in their regional language (Hindi).

Preetham R and Vinayak Vineeth

Preetham R. and Vinayak Vineeth are 17-year-old high-schoolers from Bangalore. Preetham is interested in computing, futurism and space; and Vinayak is thinking about projects ranging from automation to web development. They received their EV grant for a semantic text analysis system based on graph similarity scores. The system (currently called the Knowledge Engine) will be used for perfectly private contextual advertising and will soon be expanded for other uses like better search engines, research tools and improved video streaming experiences. They hope to launch it commercially by the end of 2022.

Shriya Shankar:

Shriya Shankar is a 20-year-old social entrepreneur and computer science engineer from Bangalore and the founder of Project Sitara Foundation, which provides accessible STEM education to children from underserved communities. She received her EV grant to develop an accessible ed-tech series focused on contextualizing mathematics in Kannada to make learning more relatable and inclusive for children.

Baishali Bomjan and Bhuvana Anand

Baishali and Bhuvana are the co-founders of Trayas Foundation, an independent research and policy advisory organization that champions constitutional, social, and market liberalism in India through data-informed public discourse. Their particular focus is on dismantling regulatory bottlenecks to individual opportunity, dignity and freedom. The EV grant will support Trayas’s work for reforms in state labor regulations that ease doing business and further prosperity, and help end legal restrictions placed on women’s employment under India’s labor protection framework to engender economic agency for millions of Indians.

Akash Bhatia and Puru Botla / Infinite Analytics

Infinite Analytics received their first grant for developing the Sherlock platform to help Indian state governments with mobility analysis to combat Covid spread. Their second EV grant is to scale their platform and analyze patterns to understand the spread of the Delta variant in the 2021 Covid wave in India. They will analyze religious congregations, election rallies, crematoria footfalls and regular daily/weekly bazaars, and create capabilities to understand the spread of the virus in every city/town in India.

PS Vishnuprasad

Vishnuprasad is a 21-year-old BS-MS student at IISER Tirupati. He is interested in the intersection of political polarization and network science and focused on the emergence and spread of disinformation and fake news. He is working on the spread of disinformation and propaganda in spaces Indians use to access information on the internet. He received his EV grant to build a tool that tracks cross-platform spread of disinformation and propaganda on social media. He is also interested in the science of cooking and is a stand-up comedian and writer.

Prem Panicker:

Prem Panicker is a journalist, cricket writer, and founding editor of peepli.org, a site dedicated to multimedia long form journalism focused on the environment, man/animal conflict, and development. He received an EV grant to explore India’s 7,400 km coastline, with an emphasis on coastal erosion, environmental degradation, and the consequent loss of lives and livelihoods.

Vaidehi Tandel

Vaidehi Tandel is an urban economist and Lecturer at the Henley Business School in University of Reading. She is interested in understanding the challenges and potential of India’s urban transformation and her EV grant will support her ongoing research on the political economy of urbanization in India. She was part of the team led by Malani that won the EV Covid India prize.

Abhinav Singh

Abhinav recently completed his Masters in the Behavioral and Computational Economics program at Chapman University’s Economic Science Institute. His goal is to make political economy ideas accessible to young Indians, and support those interested in advancing critical thinking over policy questions. He received his EV grant to start Polekon, a platform that will host educational content and organize seminars on key political economy issues and build a community of young thinkers interested in political economy in India.

Bevin A./Contact

CONTACT was founded by two engineers Ann Joys and Bevin A. as a low-cost, voluntary, contact tracing solution. They used RFID tags and readers for consenting individuals to log their locations at various points like shops, hotels, educational institutions, etc. These data are anonymized and analyzed to track mobility and develop better Covid policies, while maintaining user anonymity.

Onkar Singh Batra

Onkar Singh is a 16-year-old developer/researcher and high school student in Jammu. He received his first EV grant for his Covid Care Jammu project. His goal is to develop India’s First Open-Source Satellite, and he is founder of Paradox Sonic Space Research Agency, a non-profit aerospace research organization developing inexpensive and open-source technologies. Onkar received his second EV grant to develop a high efficiency, low cost, nano satellite. Along with EV his project is also supported by an Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) grant. Onkar has a working engineering model and is developing the final flight model for launch in 2022.

StorySurf

Storysurf, founded by Omkar Sane and Chirag Anand, is based on the idea that stories are the simplest form of wisdom and that developing an ocean of stories is the antidote to social media polarization. They are developing both a network of writers, and a range of stories between 6-300 words in a user-friendly app to encourage people to read narratives. Through their stories, they hope to help more readers consume information and ideas through stories.

Naman Pushp/ Airbound

Airbound is cofounded by its CEO Naman Pushp, a 16 year old high-schooler from Mumbai passionate about engineering and robotics, and COO Faraaz Baig, a 20 year old self-taught programmer and robotics engineers from Bangalore. Airbound aims to make delivery accessible by developing a VTOL drone design that can use small businesses as takeoff/landing locations. They have also created the first blended wing body tail sitter (along with a whole host of other optimizations) to make this kind of drone delivery possible, safe and accessible.

Anup Malani / CMIE / Prabhat Jha

An joint grant to (1) Anup Malani, Professor at the University of Chicago, (2) The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), and (3) Prabhat Jha, Professor at University of Toronto and the Centre for Global Health Research, to determine the extent to which reported excess deaths in India are due to Covid. Recent studies show that that the pandemic in India may be associated with between 3 million to 4.9 million excess deaths, roughly 8-12 times officially reported number of COVID deaths. To determine how many of these deaths are statistically attributable to Covid, they will conduct verbal autopsies on roughly 20,000 deaths, with the results to be made publicly available.

And finally:

Aditya Dar/The Violence Archive

A joint grant to Aaditya Dar, an economist at Indian School of Business, Kiran Garimella, a computer scientist at Rutgers University and Vasundhara Sirnate, a political scientist and journalist for creating the India Violence Archive. They will use machine learning and natural language processing to develop an open-source historical record of collective public violence in India over 100 years. The goal is to create accessible and high-quality public data so civil society can pursue justice and governments can make better policy.

Those unfamiliar with Emergent Ventures can learn more here and here. EV India announcement here. More about the winners of EV India second cohort here. To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.

Note that EV India is led and run by Shruti Rajagopalan, I thank her for all of her excellent work on this!

Here is Shruti on Twitter, and here is her excellent Ideas of India podcast.  Shruti is herself an earlier Emergent Ventures winner, and while she is very highly rated remains grossly underrated.

Those new service sector jobs China markets in everything

At 40 years old, Zheng says she’s tired of searching for the perfect man. So she’s decided to hire one instead.

Whenever she feels like some male company, the divorcée heads to a café in central Shanghai named The Promised Land. There, she spends hours being pampered by a handsome young server, who fetches her drinks, watches movies with her, and listens attentively to her anecdotes.

The sessions cost over 400 yuan ($60) each time, but Zheng says they’re worth every cent.

“The butlers respect me and care about my feelings,” she tells Sixth Tone. “Even if you have a boyfriend, he might not be this sweet, right?”

…The outlets have found success by tapping into the frustrations of Chinese women, many of whom feel society remains far too patriarchal…

Wang Qian, a 24-year-old student, is a regular visitor to the café. She tells Sixth Tone she enjoys the feeling of empowerment she gets from spending time there.

According to Wang, many of the men she meets in normal life are pu xin nan — a term popularized by the female comedian Yang Li that roughly translates as “men who are so average, yet so confident.” The butlers, however, are considerate and never mansplain anything to her, she says…

The butler feels he has to be flawless to progress at The Promised Land. The café imposes a rigid hierarchy. Butlers are divided into three levels: entry, advanced, and celebrity — with each priced differently. To spur competition, the managers hang a board on the wall displaying the number of tips each server has received.

Here is the full story, interesting throughout.

They had better hurry up and distribute those AstraZeneca doses

Movement data from last weekend show Melburnians engaging in what experts have called thousands of small transgressions with the potential to drive COVID-19 infections higher, as the effect of 200 days of lockdown takes an emotional toll.

Google mobility data compiled by The Age reveals that across the state last Friday and Saturday, people were moving more than at any time since mid-July last year when complacency prompted Premier Daniel Andrews to plunge the state into stage-four lockdown and mandatory mask-wearing.

Last weekend saw a spate of breaches including an organised takeaway pub crawl in Richmond and an engagement party in Caulfield North attended by 69 guests. The couple involved in the illegal party have received $5400 fines. Two of their parents were also fined and other guests are being interviewed.

Some metropolitan municipalities including Glen Eira and Bayside recorded their highest lockdown movement levels last week, ahead of a number of mystery cases appearing in St Kilda.

Professor Mike Toole from Melbourne’s Burnet Institute, who lives in a mobility hotspot in the inner south, said he was shocked to witness large groups of people gathering in parks at the weekend.

Here is the full article, via Rich Dewey.  And the Sydney lockdown is now extended until the end of September, with masks mandated for outside as well.  Elsewhere:

Walmart, Target and Lowe’s, by contrast, all lifted sales forecasts this week after beating expectations for the three months to the end of July. While demand for toilet paper and cleaning supplies has cooled after 2020s pantry hoarding, the appetite for other products was broad-based.  Party supplies, apparel and travel gear flew off Walmart’s shelves. At Home Depot, an early cache of Halloween decorations sold out almost immediately. Swimsuits and children’s clothing were similarly popular at Target and, in another sign of confidence, more customers returned to Walmart and Target store aisles after a year of browsing online.

Here is the associated FT article.  Which set of values do you prefer?  Which do most people prefer?

How many children are killed by the schools anyway?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Of course, with or without Covid, some number of children die at school. But it is surprisingly difficult to find out how many. In 2020, there were more than 50 million students in public elementary, middle or high schools, yet there is no systematic national database of student deaths at school. School shootings have claimed up to 75 deaths annually in recent years, and there are many other possible causes of death, such as traffic or sports accidents.

It’s entirely plausible that a few hundred students die each year for reasons directly related to school attendance. If suicides induced by school bullying but occurring off campus are included, the number could be higher still. Some 4,400 young people in America commit suicide in a typical year, and surely many of those deaths are attributable, at least partially, to events at school.

Adding up all these admittedly indirect chains of causation, it’s possible that school attendance leads to at least 2,000 deaths every year in the U.S. And those have nothing to do with Covid.

Fortunately, it is not customary in normal times to debate whether it is worth opening schools knowing that it could result in the death of perhaps 2,000 students. The true toll of opening schools is unknown, much less debated, and if there is a discussion it is over school shootings, which ought to be preventable (or at least limited) by measures other than closing schools.

This “head in the sand” approach is highly imperfect. Still, it is preferable to panicking and closing the schools every year.

It is difficult to calculate how many children have died of Covid, but perhaps the best estimate comes from England, where it caused 25 deaths of people younger than 18 in the year ended in March. The final tally is certainly higher in the more populous U.S., but as of July seven states still were reporting zero Covid deaths among children. This recent estimate suggests 358 deaths, though it is based on only 43 states.

Yes, it is worth considering whether school reopenings will lead to unacceptably high levels of Covid in the non-school population. It is also worth pointing out that Covid is spreading very rapidly in states with low vaccination rates — without the schools playing a role. In any case, it does not justify focusing solely on the safety of children in discussions of school reopening.

Economists have long studied the tendency of people to assign more value to a “known life” than to a “statistical life.” When a baby is trapped down a well, for example, many millions of dollars will be spent trying to save her. Her photo will appear on the evening news and on social media. Yet when it comes to saving lives in the aggregate, such as by installing more and better smoke detectors, there is only modest interest.

Right now too many Americans are trapped: Because the pandemic has been so dramatic for so many, every life looks like a known life rather than a statistical life. We all need to start working our way back to a bit more emotional distance.

Recommended.

What makes an interview podcast good or great?

A few people have asked me lately what makes for a good podcast.  Since my podcast is far from the most popular, and since most podcasts are not like mine, and do not (and should not) try to be like mine, perhaps I am not the right respondent.  Nonetheless I offered a simple formula:

A podcast really works when it is the dramatic unfolding of a story and mood between the guest and host.

Or expressed in other words:

What makes for a good podcast is the dramatic tension between the guest and host.

If you think of Russ Roberts at EconTalk, often “the story line” is something like “I am a Mensch and you are a Mensch, and we are going to talk this through together.”  In earlier times, it had more elements of “you are going to put forward some mainstream points, and I am going to push back with market-oriented economics.”

Many of the most famous podcasts are variants of: “We will pretend to be talking about something, but in fact we will exploring new visions of masculinity for a Woke and post-Woke world.”

The visual images and home pages associated with those podcasts are often so…manly.  The T-shirts!  The muscles!  It is also why those podcasts fail so badly at having significant numbers of interesting female guests, addressed on their own terms.

Many episodes of Conversations of Tyler are “I’m going to try to show people just how smart you are, but it will end up a wilder and more precarious ride than you might have thought.”  Occasionally a guest flunks the test (though they might still be smart).  Alternately, the podcast with Daniel Carpenter was the first episode of “Tyler gets upset at a guest, they really have at it!”

I called my podcast with David Deutsch “weird and testy” — that too is dramatic tension.  One listener tweeted: “Tyler’s delight at having a guest who doesn’t hedge or mealymouth is palpable.”  Few tweeted about the substance of the disagreements.

One woman wrote about it: “Without understanding everything he said, I find myself mentally stimulated & spiritually inspired. Such a purist, an idealist, a truth-seeker w/ religious zeal. Not religious myself, I could see myself eventually submit to his religion”

She meant Deutsch.

Some listeners enjoy how the guests are surprised and delighted by the questions.  With Alexander the Grate — the homeless guy — the question was how he would perform at all.  I thought he was excellent and very interesting, but there was real suspense leading up to that point.  “And will Tyler question him just like he does everyone else?”

Get the picture?  I’m not saying these listeners are indifferent to the content, rather they filter it through the unfolding story about the dialogical interaction.  I don’t know of any successful podcasts that violate this principle.

One reader wrote to me:

…some very few podcasts are high level professionals in the same field, with a lot of respect for one another, exploring the space and enjoying each other’s company, especially when effectively “meeting for the first time.” I feel like this is maybe on the order of 1-5% of podcasts I hear. Most podcasts I listen to are “just” very high quality interviews

My podcasts with Lex Fridman or Tim Ferriss would be examples of that, and there are plenty more out there without yours truly.

So, to use Hansonian rhetoric, “Podcasting isn’t about the podcast!”  If you are seeking to understanding a podcast, including your own, start by asking what the basic story line is.  Where the dramatic tension lies.  Do you have enough dramatic tension in what you are doing?  What is the actual reason why you are not attracting more quality guests of a particular kind?

I am not claiming comparable expertise, but to return to my own endeavors, they are most influenced by: Monty Python’s Flying Circus (especially the interview segments, which maintain remarkable dramatic tension), Seinfeld (wonderful ensemble work), Curb Your Enthusiasm (for how long can you keep people on edge?), and the TNT halftime show with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, etc. (what makes for a dramatic or memorable interjection?).  I doubt those are the right sources for your podcast, but perhaps you should look far and wide as well, rather than just listening to other podcasts.  Howard Stern is perhaps another useful source?

If they had had another season of Seinfeld, would Jerry have to have started (again) dating Elaine?  The dramatic stories in a podcast also need to change and evolve over time, and perhaps I will return to that topic in the future.

The Farrago of International Travel Restrictions

International travel restrictions are a farrago built on fear, statistical confusion, and out-dated information. The US, for example, is still requiring a virus test to enter the US but not proof of vaccination. In other words, a fully vaccinated citizen can now fly to Canada (with Canadian requirements) but if they want back in they need to have had a virus test. Ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous, Chinese, European and British citizens are still not allowed into the United States. Why? China, for example, has almost no COVID cases–thus there is no reason to restrict Chinese citizens from traveling to the United States. Indeed, President Trump rescinded these restrictions at the end of his term but Biden reinstated them immediately. Why?  Travel is now banned from many countries with low COVID and high vaccination rates while allowed from many countries with high COVID rates and low vaccination rates.  There is no rhyme or reason to the travel bans and restrictions.

I propose we eliminate the farrago with a simple rule. Anyone vaccinated with a full dose of any WHO approved vaccine should be allowed to visit the United States without restriction. People on twitter responded “but even a vaccinated person could still be a carrier!” No kidding. So what? We cannot eliminate all risk. The logic of allowing vaccinated travelers into the United States is simple–a fully vaccinated visitor is safer than the average US citizen. Thus, allowing more vaccinated people into the United States is not especially risky and is having beneficial effects on the economy.

“Vaccine passports” became politically charged but what we have now is a bizarre combination of “testing passports” and “no passports.” In contrast, a vaccination requirement for travel is simpler, cheaper, more convenient and more effective than a test and it creates greater freedom than no passport at all. A vaccine requirement is no more difficult to enforce than a testing requirement. Indeed, the United States has in the past required vaccination prior to arrival so this would hardly be unprecedented. For special cases, a test could be allowed in lieu of a vaccine, especially if it was followed up with an airport vaccination but vaccination should be the primary requirement.

To recap: Anyone vaccinated with a full dose of any WHO approved vaccine should be allowed to visit the United States without restriction.

Addendum: A mix and match from any two WHO approved vaccines counts as a full dose!

Excess Deaths in India

Abhishek Anand, Justin Sandefur, and Arvind Subramanian calculate excess mortality in India since April 2020 based on three different datasets (each with their own challenges.) Each estimate indicates that excess mortality is more likely around 4 million than the official figure of 400,000. These figures accord with what everyone on the ground has been telling me. Nearly all my Indian friends report deaths among their family or friends.

…the most critical take-away is that regardless of source and estimate, actual deaths during the Covid pandemic are likely to have been an order of magnitude greater than the official count. True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since partition and independence.

 

Photo Credit: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI

What I’ve been reading

1. Russ Banham, The Fight for Fairfax: Private Citizens and Public Policymaking.  A well-informed story of the great men and women who built up Fairfax County, Virginia, including Til Hazel, Sid Dewberry, Earle Williams, Jack Herrity, George Johnson, Dwight Schar, and others.  WWNN: “We were never NIMBY!”  It is striking how much the key builders were not born as elites.

2. Dan Levy, Maxims for Thinking Analytically: The wisdom of legendary Harvard professor Richard Zeckhauser.  How many of us will end up getting books such as this in our honor?  If you are curious, Zeckhauser’s three maxims for personal life are: “There are some things you just don’t want to know,” “If you focus on people’s shortcomings, you’ll always be disappointed,” and “Practice asynchronous reciprocity.”  Zeckhauser, by the way, was on my dissertation committee.

3. Adeeb Khalid, Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present.  Could this be the best history of Central Asia?  The author takes special care to tie the region to the histories of Russia and China, the author seeming to have a specialization in Russian history, and for me that makes the entire enterprise far more intelligible.  Useful for Xinjiang history as well, here is one useful review of the book.

4. Paul Greenhalgh, Ceramic: Art and Civilisation.  Picture book!  Need I say more?  And a big one.

Edward J. Watts, The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea.  How has the decline of Rome been discussed and analyzed throughout the ages, including by the Romans themselves?

Loyd Grossman, The Artist and the Eternal City: Bernini, Pope Alexander VII, and the Making of Rome.  Has all the virtues of a picture book, but the price of a regular book.  With the common educated public, Bernini is still probably underrated.

Michael S. Malone, The Big Score: The billion dollar story of Silicon Valley is the new Stripe Press reprint.

Seth David Radwell, American Schism: How the Two Enlightenments Hold the Secrets to Healing Our Nation.  This is not a book written for me, but it is nonetheless good to see someone putting forward Enlightenment ideals as a solution to our problems.

Stripe Atlas update

Five years ago, Marginal Revolution covered a new project, Stripe Atlas, to help founders incorporate their start-ups and thus make them successful realities.  There is a one-time fee of $500.  Here are the results:

In 2016, we launched Stripe Atlas to help founders turn their ideas into startups, and in turn, collectively grow the GDP of the internet. Since then, over 20,000 businesses have started with Atlas and have generated over $3 billion in revenue. We surveyed over 1,000 Atlas founders to get a snapshot of this generation of entrepreneurs and their needs…

Ninety-one percent of Atlas founders are not in Silicon Valley. In fact, outside of the US, some of the places where we’re seeing the fastest growth are Nigeria (400% year-over-year), United Arab Emirates (165%), and India (66%). Twenty-eight percent of founders told us that they identify as minorities in their country, and 24% are immigrants. Just 12% of founders identified as female. (This is slightly better when compared to the portfolios of major startup accelerators or venture capital firms.) Over time we hope to help more female founders start and scale. Forty-three percent of Atlas founders are building businesses for the first time—nearly 10,000 of them started in just the past year (an indication of an upward trend in entrepreneurship after nearly three decades of decline).

That is from Edwin Wee.  The core lesson, at the meta-level, is that business services for an internet age remain drastically underprovided.  But on the bright side, entrepreneurs are starting to remedy this…

The Public Choice Outreach Conference!

The Public Choice Outreach Conference, a compact lecture series designed as a “crash course” in Public Choice for students planning careers in academia, journalism, law, or public policy, will be online this year–a week of noon to 1:15 (EST) Zooms, August 2-7.

Monday, August 2
An Introduction to Public Choice—Alex Tabarrok

Tuesday, August 3
Arrow’s Theorem and All That—Alex Tabarrok

Wednesday, August 4
Public Choice and Development Economics—Shruti Rajagopalan

Thursday, August 5
Evaluating Democratic Institutions—Garett Jones

Friday, August 6
Futarchy: An Alternative Decision-Making Procedure—Robin Hanson

Saturday, August 7
Hayek and Buchanan—Peter Boettke

You can find out more here and the application is here. The program is designed for students but going online will allow us to expand the attendees so do apply!

Abolishing tenure is the least of my proposals

In my latest Bloomberg column I attempt to design an ideal university from scratch.  The point is not that all schools should be this way, rather this is the experiment I would like to see at the margin:

I would start with what I expect students to know. They should be able to write very well, have  a basic understanding of economics and public policy, and a decent working knowledge of statistical reasoning. I would give a degree to students who demonstrated “B-grade” competence in all of these areas; what now goes for passing C-minus work wouldn’t cut it.

Most important, the people who write and grade the students’ tests would not be their instructors. So students would have to acquire a genuine general knowledge base, not just memorize what is supposed to be on the exam.

Next, each student would have the equivalent of a GitHub certification page. If you learned three programming languages, for example, or won a prize in a science fair, that would go on your page as a credential. But it would not count as a credit toward graduation. Some students could finish their degrees in a year or two even if their pages were not adorned with many accomplishments, while others might fill their pages but get no degree.

My imaginary school would not have many assistant deans, student affairs staff or sports teams. The focus would be on paying more money to the better instructors.

And:

Instructors would not have tenure, but would have to compete for students — by offering them classes and services that would help them graduate and improve the quality of their certification pages. Teachers would be compensated on the basis of how many students they could attract, in a manner suggested long ago by Adam Smith, who himself lived under such a system in 18th-century Scotland.

The very best instructors could earn $300,000 to $400,000 a year…

The school would hire online instructors too, many of them from poorer countries and working at lower wages. So you might take French from a tutor in Senegal, or have a high school teacher from Tamil Nadu read your essays and offer writing tips. I am a big believer in face-to-face instruction, but in my school it would have to compete with online instruction. For this reason, I think my school would have a much more diverse faculty and instructional base than any other institution of higher education. None of the instructors would be required to have any undergraduate or advanced degrees.

The goal is to introduce competition across as many different margins as possible.  There would be an “all on-line” option as well, offered to anyone in the world, though of course the on-line degree might be worth less as judged in the market place.

One issue I did not have time to get into is how the school would “shadow price” its different services to students.  Access to different services has to be priced somehow, so should the school hand out total vouchers to each student for use within the school?  Should the on-line and also face-to-face classes be priced at marginal cost (plus mark-up)?  Or do positive externalities from class cohesion mean that the face-to-face classes should be priced at some additional discount?  To what extent should factors other than this shadow price system be used to allocate access to classes?

Let’s all have a revisionist Fourth of July

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Revisionist history serves many useful purposes, and for the most part it should be encouraged — even though many particular revisionist claims turn out to be wrong. The natural human state of affairs is a kind of complacency and acceptance of the status quo. If historians sometimes write a bit too sharply or speculatively to capture the audience’s attention, it is a price worth paying. At any rate, the audience tends not to take them literally or to pay close attention to their more detailed claims.

And:

The problem is that the revisionism isn’t diverse enough. A few issues — most of all those raised by Critical Race Theory — get caught up in the culture wars and are debated above all others. I agree that we should devote more time and attention to America’s disgraceful history of slavery and race relations, and I have incorporated that into my own teaching.

Still, other matters are being neglected. The longer trajectory of U.S. foreign policy is hardly debated, or what that history should mean for current decisions. There is plenty of carping about “the deep state,” but actual history has fallen down a memory hole, including the history of U.S. intelligence agencies.

It gets worse yet. According to one recent survey, 63% of the American public is not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Ten percent had not heard of the Holocaust at all. Or consider the treatment of Native Americans, which was terrible and produced few heroes. Yet American soul-searching on this history seems to be minimal.

America needs revisionism, more of it please, and on timely and controversial topics. But it also needs less politicized and more intellectually diverse interpretations of its history. On this Fourth of July, what America needs is not the promotion of some particular claim of historical hypocrisy, but the elevation of the historical itself.

Recommended, and have a happy Fourth!