Assorted links


#5 - I've been attending opera for 50 years now and the premise of this article is so wrong as to be laughable. We're seeing companies go out of business at an increasing rate and those that are left are cutting back on their seasons (witness what has happened with the Washington National Opera that Placido Domingo ran into the ground; it had to be bailed out by the Kennedy Center). The Met makes big money on in theater broadcasts but is not doing so well with ticket sales these days. San Francisco, Houston and Chicago are viable companies with relatively short seasons. Glockley knows how to run a company and what he's done in both Houston and now San Francisco is wonderful. Unfortunately there are not more like him.

#2: The term "spurious correlation" simply doesn't do justice to that steaming pile of bs.

Not only that but, even if one accepts the empirical results, the interpretation of those results reveal a lot more about the authors' biases than effect of children on CEO generosity. The authors seem to believe that the only factor that affects workers' pay is CEO generosity. In their view, if workers' wages fall after a CEO has a child, it's because the CEO suddenly becomes less generous. They don't consider that maybe the CEO becomes more "family friendly" so workers are willing to accept lower wages for the intangible compensation of a more favorable work environment. Or, maybe after having children, the CEO becomes "soft", causing the most productive workers to leave to find companies led by CEOs that can better monetize these workers' productivity, leading to better pay for those workers. The less productive workers left behind explain the drop in wages. Maybe, the CEO's apparent increase in compensation is evidence of a subtle form of discrimination against single or childless employees: the Board thinks that, if a CEO is childless, he/she doesn't "need" as much compensation, so the Board is tougher in negotiating his/her compensation package.

The authors seem completely unaware that worker pay is a result of agreement by *both* workers and the CEO, and CEO pay is a result of agreement by both the Board and the CEO. Hence, they fail to consider impact of worker productivity, valuation of intangible benefits, and other factors. Nope, in their view, all variations in wages are due to the CEO's generosity. Schools are wasting their time trying to teach children math, reading, writing, and other productivity-enhancing skills. They should be teaching children how to identify the most generous CEOs, since that is what raises wages.

Interesting argument by Martin Ford (#4). But he gets a couple of facts wrong.

(1) He states that consumption spending is "typically about 70% of GDP." While consumption spending is about 70% of GDP in the US now, that's up from about 60% in 1950, and is a post-WWII high.
(2) He implies that all business purchases are of intermediate goods, which is also incorrect. Investment spending is also a final-goods purchase. And while investment spending is not at a post-WWII-record high as a % of GDP (it hit that in 2000, at 17.5%), it's also higher than it was in 1950 (13% in 2011; 12% in 1950, and an average of about 10% through the 1950s).
(As an aside, government purchases--all levels--are down from about 30% in 1950 to about 20% in 2011.)

Whether any of this affects his argument is not clear to me. But the notion that the % of GDP allocated to consumption spending is somehow fixed is clearly wrong. (To perhaps no one's surprise, consumption appears to be about 50% of GDP in China...)

The thesis of (3) would imply that if we look at the majority-secular societies of western Europe, Japan, and Russia we should expect to see societies where (i) scientists have higher social status, and (ii) the Great Stagnation has not occurred. No comment on (i) which in any event is an impossibly vague thing to measure. But (ii) has been if anything worse elsewhere, though perhaps with a later onset date.


The real "problem" is that scientific careers are riskier, require more training, and are usually less financially rewarding than many other career paths.

On #2, I'm not sure I buy having kids as a driver but I do like the frame of "how do CEOs divide returns between employees, shareholders, and themselves", which is a worthwhile discussion.

I buy #3. Militant atheists might be right (unprovable) but it's hard to see why they need to be militant. The errors and excesses of religion can be discussed directly, as errors and excesses. God does not want us to kill little girls on their way to school seems a good argument on its own merit.

Ooh, "militant" atheists. Scary.

No, the ones I met have never been scary. Sad, often angry and more than a little socially inept, but not really scary.

You're trying too hard. See my responses to Faze.

Killing hopes and dreams? And for what reason, really ....

Even as an atheist, I find it difficult to grasp that religion is causing the great stagnation. During high periods of Western growth, there was plenty of religious belief, and likely far deeper than what we have today. Perhaps someone can run a regression ;)

I am reminded that Forrest Mimms III was a great technologist and teacher of technology, while also being religious and a creationist. This created personal problems for him (sad), but did not prevent him from making great contributions.

You speak of Mimms as though he were dead. The home page of his website refers to an event that occurred on December 13, 2012.

I know, for some reason I think of him being from some other age ... though yes, he is still here.

This flippant dismissal fails to address many of the points the author made.

On #4, I never got the idea that wider ownership of robots was a fix for falling employment. It describes an effective path for a minority. And sure, a robot-owning minority will see falling demand unless a "robo-socialism" dole is developed.

1: not so much "Chinglish", but simply lazy translation. The ultimate example of this sort of thing was an airport cafeteria called "Translate Server Error".

3. Durkheim said, "“If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion." Scientists who attack religion are signaling that they are not "for" society, inasmuch as religion is a stand-in for our collective selves. Opposing religion is a deeply asocial act and people perceive it that way.

Scientists who attack religion are signaling that they are not “for” society, inasmuch as religion is a stand-in for our collective selves. Opposing religion is a deeply asocial act and people perceive it that way.

Religion is in long-term decline in the developed world. Its decline has been particularly dramatic in the scandinavian countries. They seem to be doing ok. The most religious nations in the world are among the most dysfunctional. So your "asocial" claim doesn't seem to have much empirical support.

I should have said that opposing religion is perceived as asocial and so scientists who oppose religion are possibly leaving status on the table. Religion is a social reality whether or not God exists. Opposing religion is like opposing table manners or complaining about having to wear a necktie. It's suggests either immaturity, lack of empathy, or an inability to interpret social cues. Grown ups understand that there are social forms that don't make sense, but which are folly to oppose.

What is it they say about the reasonable versus the unreasonable man?

I'd also note that religion is increasingly not a "social reality" in many demographics. Among under-40 tech workers on either coast, my impression is that you're more likely to be looked at funny if you're devoutly religious than if you're an outspoken atheist.

Same in most of Western Europe and not just for tech workers, either.

It’s suggests either immaturity, lack of empathy, or an inability to interpret social cues.

No, it suggests a refusal to defer to a dying social convention that involves the pretense of respect for nonsense. Your defensiveness about religion suggests that you are keenly aware of its increasingly embattled condition.

This is fine to a certain extent. On the other hand, it isn't folly to point out that, unlike table manners or neck ties, some aspects of religion impose real costs on society and that there should be secular push-back against those aspects. For instance, a religion that says that modern medical treatment is against the will of God can ruin lives and result in unnecessary death and disability. The idea that the world is ending soon can dissuade people from long-term thinking and can cut against the idea that we have a responsibility to pass on a more functional and wealthier society to our children and grandchildren. Neckties don't have these sorts of social costs but even so they are still less popular than they were 40 or 50 years ago.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that many non-Western societies have indeed gone through a fairly radical transformation where lots of "social forms" were done away with either because they were imposing serious social costs or were seen as obsolete or silly. Thailand and Japan in the 19th century are good examples.

For instance, a religion that says that modern medical treatment is against the will of God can ruin lives and result in unnecessary death and disability.

That's just a symptom. The underlying problem is religious faith. Belief unsupported by evidence. And the idea that faith is a virtue.

I thought that real grown ups didn't believe in fairy tales.

This is why America is in decline: its 'grown up' class is in its death throes thanks to people like you.

There is room for empiricism. Present yourself as a generic researcher from Monsanto and compare your welcome in San Francisco and Iowa.

That one made me laugh out loud.

The "robot effect" is well underway. Most of the income inequality and "zero mpv" worker effects over last 20 yrs are due to technological progress in one form or another, mostly in the IT realm. Whether it's hedge funds, social media, retailing, manufacturing,, etc, the IT revolution places lots of power in the hands of a very few and eliminates lots of jobs in the process. Capital trumps labor and the effect will only increase.

Imagine a world where no-one has to work, and there is no demand for human labor. How do the proceeds of that robot economy get divided up? I suspect most people will need to depend on the kindness of strangers (robots?).

"nothing remains to be desired but that the King, living quite alone on the island, should by continuously turning a crank cause automatons to do all the work of England"

Eugene Buret, De la misère des classes laborieuses en Angleterre et en France. (In a passage quoted by Marx, Sismondi, and Ricardo...)

# 3: I can easily believe that the perceived battle between scientists and creationism discourages some religious people from going into science, but I greatly doubt it discourages them from going into the kind of science that leads to economic progress. Religiously minded people almost undoubtedly have reservations about becoming anthropologists, archaeologists, astronomers, evolutionary biologists and probably sociologists. But I find it not credible to think they are discouraged from becoming physicists, chemists, computer scientists, mathematicians or any kind of engineer. If I add my Bayesian prior about the likelihood of any of the former helping us out of the Great Stagnation then the "Science/Creationist" battle is as likely to help as hurt the economy.

Comments for this post are closed