Assorted links


How quickly can China build very tall buildings?

100 times faster than they can find tenants to occupy said buildings.

I think you will also enjoy reading the MSFT research thesis about why scammers say they are from Nigeria. Basically, it is to weed out false positive responses and enable them to work only with the most gullible marks.

Thanks for the link -- that is an excellent paper -- also, I enjoyed reading McCloskey's rant against government in link #4 above -- though her rant is well-taken, the same points were made more effectively, though less dispassionately, by Coase in his social cost paper

1. "...and how long will they stay up?"

Do we have particular reasons to doubt their earthquake-resistance claims? I found the video quite impressive -- not the pure speed so much as the standardization / modularization and the factory-based construction of finished floor-ceiling modules (down to the HVAC, ceiling panels, and floor tiles). And neither the finished building nor apartments in it appear to be ugly.

I wouldn't trust them to stay up 50 years even without earthquakes.

Let's just say Chinese building codes are... much like the rest of the country.


My sister worked in Taiwan a few years ago while they were building a major subway / elevated rail system. She hung out in the expat community and heard the usual stories. Apparently, part of the system was being built by European contractors and the rest by the locals. The locals were cutting corners right and left.

However, the system never fell down. Modern construction designs have huge margins for error. In other words, almost everything is heavily overbuilt. Truthfully, failures occur but they are quite rare. See "Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail" over at Amazon.

To me, the real story is that the economic growth of China is more than just replication of non-Chinese production methods. China is innovating to a material extent. So far, innovation appears to account for only a small portion of Chinese growth. However, that fraction will likely rise with time (as it did with Japan, Taiwan, and S. Korea).

I am no expert on the subject. However, I have seen significant Chinese innovations in metal processing (new methods of Nickel production) and coal chemicals (via gasification).

This should surprise no one. These are the people who invented paper and gunpowder. With a better social system, the first industrial revolution would have been in China 1000 years ago and we would now be talking about how the Chinese global empire collapsed in 1500 after dominating the world for centuries.

Good points, but, ahem:

in Taiwan a few years ago ... However, the system never fell down

I would not be surprised if China gets though the next decade or two without major problems, but I read last year real property depreciates surprisingly quickly.

Yes, and the ancient Egyptians actually had working chemical batteries. Apparently he problem isn't so much inventing tech as having a philosophical framework in which to understand it, maths to predict it, a system of property rights to exploit it, and a political/religious environment that allows it to be discussed freely.

I am going to read the report on Cuba with great interest, as I have always wanted to follow in Ernest Hemingway's footsteps and live in Cuba, but as I understand it, there is less foreign investment in Cuba today than there was before this new wave of "reforms" was introduced -- the problem with Cuba is not the reforms per se, but the fact that their rulers can change the rules of the game (whatever those rules happen to be) midstream at their pleasure

You could also have the Fed stop paying the bond sellers 0.25% interest a year on excess reserves. When bond investors "exit the market," 92% or so of the new cash has to go one of three places:

1. Into the economy.
2. Excess Reserves.
3. Physical cash holdings in vaults.

I've heard many arguments of IOR, none of which have made any sense. The fact of the matter is the Fed is printing money to pay money-holders to not spend the money they have printed. With zero or negative IOR, banks would need to lend it out, or if no lending opportunities exist, charge fees to make up the costs of holding the money.

Meh, that was meant to go in the last post. I was trying to get around Wordpress saying that I was "posting comments too quickly."

#2 ... really weird, I live on one of those maps

McCloskey's sermon will probably be well-received by the congregation, but her message probably won't get much past the front door of the church. It's a shame to see such passion and brilliance focused on composing short, shallow and biting responses to those with opposing views.

I'm rather Libertarianish and therefore I am sympathetic with much of what she said... and yet still I perceive that she's done little more than elevate this to a he said-she said situation. Ms. McCloskey talks a lot about facts, and yet all I see in her essay are a series of assertions with little evidence to support that they are what rational, reasonable people might consider facts. Were I a Liberal, it would be extremely easy for me to completely ignore her saucy assertions laced with contempt. It strikes me that McCloskey is mirroring exactly the behavior she's complaining about! It's very easy to imagine a Liberal reply nearly identical to hers but with opposite "facts".

What I'd have preferred from her is an honest invitation to Liberals to discuss the relevant assumptions/stories. She's quite right that Liberals have a narrative(s)... and yet she doesn't seem to acknowledge her own Libertarian narrative, which frankly may be every bit as lacking. Something like... my story is X and your story is Y? Do you agree? Okay, great. Are our stories mutually exclusive? What percent accuracy would you ascribe to my story... to your story? What percent explanatory power do our stories have? Now let's agree on how we might reasonably test the veracity and explanatory power of my story and of your story, etc.

Dear intelligentsia: This world is already rather long on smart, opinionated people making one-sided quasi scientific arguments. What we could use more of are highly intelligent and self-aware people that openly and honestly engage with evidence, not just in an attempt to prove their own point, but also to get to the bottom of what's really going on. People that take themselves to task every bit, if not more, than the other side. People that take for granted that at least some of what the other side thinks probably has merit. We could use more people that work hard to gain clarity about their own personal values and how said values influence their conclusions and that are willing to be upfront about them. More people that engage with the other side's values. More people that understand that WE ARE ALL CAPTURED BY STORY and that it may not be reasonable to assume your story is all that much more accurate than their story.

At least, that's my current story anyway.

PS: What if we created a new model of academic research that required scientists with opposing views to work directly with one another (Taversky and Kahneman)? Or here's an idea... every few years you have to write a research paper arguing the opposite of your own views. These are just brainstorms, so go easy on me. Or at academic conferences, you ask the people who believe X to go to one side and the people that believe Y to go the other... and then you make them take the other side's argument (obviously I'm greatly simplifying here... things are often more complex that two sides). These are not especially clever ideas, and yet it seems to me that our experts spend way, way to much time proving themselves right and far to little time proving themselves wrong.

PS: In my opinion, TC comes closer to this than 99.9% of media figures I've read.... which is why I read him and trust him. It is also true that his views are often in alignment with mine, which probably predisposes me to like him.

PPS: Of course, one of many assumptions I'm making is that it's a good thing for political and moral debate to rise beyond he said-she said shouting matches.... which may or may not be true.

McC is going to claim "I'm an old person, tee-hee" as to why she doesn't do painstaking web 3.0 metadiscussion.
Agree on MargRev's value in being usefully respectful of opposing views.
For me the best part of the discussion was seeing cyberbully Brian Leiter's typical chimp-out. Shame, too, by all accounts he's a decent fellow IRL.

Matt, delete the #comments at the end of the URL and load the page without that bit, then leave your comment. That always works for me when I run into that spurious error message.

Mother Jones may have run that piece, but from the comments, the readers aren't buying it.

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