Assorted links


The Magnus Carlsen fluff piece was barely worth reading, but I guess for somebody who never heard of him it's OK. "Carlsen will be taking on the 43-year-old five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand in India. Vishy, as he is known, has been in intense training for the match for three months. Carlsen has a much more relaxed approach. It is part of his genius". Actually openings are Carlsen's weakness, he does not practice them much, not that he really is weak in anything. Statistically Anand has a mere 15% chance of winning but I'm rooting for the Old Man to beat the Sea.

You mean the "old man to beat the C."

I've always wanted to know about Noel Gallagher's thoughts on literature. I'm glad I finally get to know his deep thoughts on the matter:

"Noel Gallagher says reading fiction 'a waste of fucking time'

Oasis songwriter voices frustration at reading what 'isn't fucking true' and says he restricts himself to 'things that have actually happened'"

Jacob --

I think Tyler's point is that Gallagher's preference is self-contradictory. Gallagher wants to read stuff "only about what happened in this world" (paraphrasing him). So he reads a book about the Cuban missile crisis and is impressed not by what happened in this world but what might have happened in some other possible world. I think that's why Tyler threw in the part about it being Noel Gallagher on "modal logic."

I.e., in this world Cuban missile crisis=disaster avoided. What is interesting about it is how close we came to some other possible world of nuclear holocaust. But that is not the actual "real world" that Gallagher professes to be interested in reading about.

Right. Cowen is not particularly intelligent or insightful, but he likes to throw around terms like "modal logic" to appear to be so.

Painful. 2-alternative forced choice between tv "news" and tv "entertainment." I'm surprised the study got past the IRB.

yes, painful choices. I wondered if the subject could just turn it off and sit in silence.

'speculative, some but not all of us believe what is in this piece'

What a fascinatingly insightful formulation.

Strange - how could American companies find solar power makes economic sense in the absence of whatever it is that is supposed to explain why solar power is not economical?

Ever thought a solar panel or solar plant might be more efficient when located in Arizona or Southern California than in northern Europe?

From the comments, to the point:

"I am confused. How can you write an entire article on the growth of solar without once mentioning "taxpayer subsidy". These are subsidized by tax breaks, government loans, outright subsidies, and feed-in tariffs at above-market rates that force other consumers to pay higher electricity rates.

Solar will make real progress when it can compete without forcing me to pay for Walmart's electricity."

I've heard that the Germans are familiar with this phenomenon.

Oh, but the article did mention all this stuff, under the heading 'innovative financing models'.

I was about to post something about the massive tax incentives, but you beat me to it. The hilarious bit for me is I'm old enough to remember the previous two iterations of the "solar is about to become economically feasible" choir. This article could have been datelined 1970. Given the genetics of my clan and current actuarial tables, I will see at least three more cycles of this madness.

Not to mention the value of the PR that comes from announcing to a slogan driven world that you're a greeny (NOT a meany).

Damn those right-wing ideologues, doing what they said was economically unjustified now that it has become worth it!

Given what has been posted on this subject, I bet you feel pretty stupid right now. Then again, maybe not.

Tax credits can make all sorts of things worthwhile.

And large economies of roof

It's not really the tax credits anymore for these rooftop solar installations, that was 2008. Compare peak demand rates from utilities and the rates charged for solar and you'll see the crossed each other a few years back. The innovative financing is sale/leaseback agreements where they sell the right to build on the rooftop and let the electricity offset their peak demand. Take the revenue stream from that and sell it to a bank to build more projects. Rinse and Repeat. Took a while to prove to investors the revenue stream is actually there is all.

I would say from Cali Inland Empire, it is worth solar because of net metering and not because state tax breaks. In fact, even if you back out the distribution costs of power of net metering it is still worth putting on solar because power companies are rebating you a lot for peak pricing (during the daytime) while you use more Edison power during the night at much lower rate.

If solar panels electric prices continue to fall at a slower version of Moore's law, it will be all over the place in the American Southwest outside of Oklahoma and Texas will probably fight it.

On another subject, isthe article about the Japanese younger generation in their reaction to the realities of "Average Is Over?" Average people can no longer afford or care to have children.

But do the "average" people know their children are likely doomed to trailer parks and canned beans?

I can afford a second child but am leaning against it because I anticipate a career change - a move towards something low paid but robot-proof and offshore-proof. My wife thinks I am crazy and wants a second child. If only the futurists wrote optimistic books instead of all the doom and gloom. I miss the 1990s.

#2: What gets little attention is just how small the TV news audience is these days. The article mentions that the traditional broadcast news outlets are three times the size, but fails to mention the age statistics. The average age is pushing 60 now. Simple math tells us where that is heading. People who wish to fill their minds with cant will seek out that which is pleasing. The overwhelming number of people, however, would rather do something else.

That must be why Fox News is doing so well. They play to their crowd, the AARP set.

You forgot MSNBC. Convienently btw.

That sex-in-Japan Guardian article upset my digestion for the day. It is a mishmash of outdated factoids which anyone interested can google for himself in ten minutes, peppered with a couple of human-interest interviews and smothered in a sauce of left-liberal self-righteousness. Yuck. As it turns out, statistics show a reversal of 'liberalizing' trends in many sex, family and lifestyle indicators in Japan beginning from about 2005 (click on my name for the link).

Indeed, it is amazing how certain factions can simultaneously gloat about having won the "culture war" while blaming new, never-before-scene problems on their dead defeated enemies.

The themes read similarly to those on manosphere blogs as to uninterested guys. MGTOW. The angle in the story from the uninterested women is more extreme. The manosphere tends to say women are interested in relationships, but are unwilling to settle for realistic/attainable long term relationships. This article indicates these Japanese women are increasingly willing to forego "any" relationship with guys even in their peak years.

I'm interested to see if one of the manosphere blogs picks up on this.

I can see the MGOTW thing but renouncing meat? Never.

#6 - Why would one expect the prize for economics be less venal than the peace prize (given to Obama)?

George Steele Gordon: “Intellectuals, especially in the social sciences, have a nasty habit of thinking that, ‘This is the way the world should be, therefore this is the way the world can be.’

Anyhow, economics, like the other social sciences, is mostly hokum (seemlessly insertion of fictions into facts), and I have no respect for the field.

Spoken like someone who has absolutely no idea of what economic research actually entails.

Is the Raj Chetty article actually good? His main argument seems to be the economics is science because now economists like him do Duflo-Banerjeree style randomized experiments.

His 3 examples of uncontested scientific findings that are not subject to ideological interpretation are all quite poor:

1. First, he says that economists all agree on the exact magnitude of the work disincentive effect of unemployment insurance, and that it is small. No.

2. His second example is the Oregon health insurance program, which he claims has created a consensus among economists that health insurance has lots of good effects and that therefore the ACA is a good thing. Also no.

3. His last one is about how good teachers have been scientifically been found to not only increase future earnings but also reduce teen pregnancy. Maybe??

I am not sure what you read, but it wasn't that op ed. This is either a result of willful ignorance, or an inability to read english.

1. He never said all economists agree. He said the studies that have actually looked at this problem have all come to the same conclusion. This is true: there is no evidence that extending unemployment benefits results in a significant disincentive to work. Of course, just as is the case with climate change research, there are plenty of "economists" who prefer to go with their gut feelings and deny the actual empirical evidence from high quality research, thereby casting doubt on the state of the research.

2. Once again, there is no mention of a broad consensus. Additionally, he never said this study is proof that the ACA is a good thing. However, the study in question does provide an empirical basis for understanding what we can expect from the ACA (which is what he said), and also provides a blueprint for integrating policy evaluation methodologies into policy deployment.

3. How about you take a look at the study.

"[E]conomists have recently begun to overcome these challenges by developing tools that approximate scientific experiments to obtain compelling answers to specific policy questions . . . The [Oregon health] study found that getting insurance coverage increased the use of health care, reduced financial strain and improved well-being — results that now provide invaluable guidance in understanding what we should expect from the Affordable Care Act."

If you think this is a fair assessment of what to conclude from the Oregon experiment, I'd recommend that you "take a look at the study."

People accept free money. Success!

Yeah we knew that beforehand said that was the problem and were even underwhelmed by the signup rates.

There was a paper posted here days ago disagreeing with 1.

5. "us"? Do the rest of "us" believe that the Japanese in question are concealing their true sexual preferences in a conservative society?

What does the Japanese conservative society consist of, Martians?


As women earn higher incomes, the pool of men they deem worthy of their sexual interest shrinks. As lower status/lesser desired men see the quality and quantity of women interested in them decline, they turn to readily available internet porn, which is effectively a substitute for the sexual demand for women, especially as you move down the quality scale. Japan may have just been a first-mover in this trend.

1. Japanese women don't earn high incomes compared to men. Japanese men have had fewer of the sarariman lifetime employment jobs available in recent generations, though.

2. Japanese women don't fall down the quality scale much. There's no obesity epidemic in Japan and general health levels are good. A plain middle aged Japanese lady is a whole lot better looking than her western peer.

3. Japan had widespread polygyny as recently as the 1900s. Monogamous marriage swept through the society quickly and thoroughly and there could be some quirky maladaptive tics left in the Yamato gene pool from the quick change.

It's never that simple. If only Roissy and his sycophants had the mental capacity to contemplate more than one cause for any one issue.

Awh poor men, no longer able to use money to force women into marriages.

"force"? what, you think women aren't attracted to men with money and power?

If women yield the money and power not that much ;)

If residential solar power becomes cheap enough to be commonplace, I'd think that would increase costs to electric utilities.

The mostly-solar home isn't going to draw utility power most of the time, but it will still be connected to the grid and after a few cloudy days will start drawing lots of grid power.

Meanwhile the utility has to keep that generating capacity available and maintain a distribution system that includes many customers who just don't buy all that much power.

No doubt this could be solved easily enough by charging a monthly "availability" fee but, however reasonable that may be, it would get a mighty pushback from the solar-equipped homeowners, the solar-energy lobby, and environmentalists.

In any case, "installed cost" is not the whole story, as there are also maintenance costs- batteries being the most obvious. And not only do more northern states get lower solar insolation, but there's larger seasonal variation in output (even if it didn't go to zero unless someone went out and got the snow off the panels).

Finally, if theft is not a problem yet, it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't become one. Is there a technical solution to this, or does one just need to sit next to the panels with a shotgun?

In closing, I'll note that what's been great about utility power is that all the complexity is on the utility's side of the socket- the user just plugs (whatever) in to get power. Residential solar radically changes that.

Public utilities vs. solar is playing out (this link might even be from this blog recently - can't remember where I read it).

I think about solar every day. It's a pain. Its also another decade or so for the tech (efficiency and cost) to plataeu IMO. I could just overpay but that's not how we do.

That Ezra Vogel article is a big frickin' deal. I am surprised. But then Ivy League universities have, allegedly, canned Doctoral students to please the Chinese authorities.

It is a worry because China is such a serious economic power. If it is going to use its weight for authoritarian ends, the rest of the world is going to feel like - as they allegedly do with the Confucian Institutes. The world is going to deeply regret the decline of America once it is gone if China keeps this up.

The best explanation I've heard for the lack of interest in sex by young people in Japan is the shortage of private living space (ie. the fact that people in their 20s and 30s live in shoe boxes or with their parents). Could it be that human beings are hard wired to lose interest in sex if there appears to be excessive population? To me this would make some sense -- this would be why, in premodern societies, starvation wasn't a regular phenomenon.

I think this is exactly the case and paradoxically explains both more conservative (greater prudishness) and liberal (more acceptance of homosexuality) phenomenon. But it happens first in the more educated countries and the countries where having children is more expensive, not necessarily in the more populated countries.

The sexual liberalism of the 1960s would be a delayed reaction to the felt need to repopulate following World War 2.

1. Rooftop solar is being installed in Australia for an average of about $2.50 a watt before any subsidy. A 25 year warranty on panels is common here. At Australian prices a system with a 30 year lifespan will produce electricity at about 11 cents or less a kilowatt-hour in a sunny location. At German installation costs it would be roughly 8 or 9 cents a kilowatt-hour. As costs approach Australian and then German levels a lot of Americans are going to install solar because it will save them money. I also imagine that some Americans will install rooftop solar and an isolation switch because having an independent power supply will give them a sense of security.

Germany vs. U.S. installation costs:

Yep, here in Australia we really have it easy compared to most Americans when it comes to installing solar power. For the most part there's no need for permits or permission. You can call up an installer and get your system installed the next day if they're not busy. Typically for permitless installation we only need to meet the following requirements:

1. The weight of the panels is distributed so that it does not exceed 100 kg at any one point of attachment to the roof
2. The panels, and any part of its associated components, do not overhang any part of the roof
3. The panels are fitted parallel to the roof with their underside surface located no more than 100 mm above the surface of the roof.
4. The solar system must also be installed by an installer accredited by the State Government.

And that's it. I don't see any reason why America shouldn't have something similar and stride into the new dawn of low cost distributed solar power. For it is a raising sun that I see, not a setting one.

That article is fascinating. No wonder Germany is such a hellish place to do business on a local level with skilled labor - '
Why It Matters

More than half the cost of a solar power installation comes from things other than the solar panels.

In 2011, residential solar system installers paid a little over $1.80 per watt for solar panels in both Germany and the United States. In Germany, installers added $1.20 to the cost of the solar panel to complete an installation. But in the U.S., they tacked on $4.36 per watt, more than three times as much.

A report released this month by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explains why.

The most obvious difference between the United States and Germany is the total amount of solar power installed in each country—there’s five times as much installed in Germany.

The study concludes, however, that the learning curve isn’t enough to explain the price disparity—it might account for only half of it. Instead, based on a survey of U.S. and German installers, it seems that there are some fundamental differences in the U.S. and German markets that could keep prices higher in the U.S.—unless something is done to address them.

The most marked difference is in the cost of acquiring customers. German installers spend seven cents per watt of installed capacity on things like marketing and designing systems for specific customers. U.S. installers spend 10 times that amount. Costs for permitting, connecting the systems to the grid, and having them inspected are also far higher in the United States. The Germans spent only three cents a watt on these things, while U.S. installers spend 20 cents, in part because of larger amounts of paperwork and the fact that U.S. installers have to pay permitting fees.

U.S. installers also spend more on labor during actual installation (in some cases, higher winds force more expensive installations). They pay more in sales tax (German installers are exempt). And they pay more for overhead (which is closely related to economies of scale).'

Ooops - sorry, that was America that is full of unnecessary barriers, not Germany. Strange how that works - not that surprising, seeing how the same pretty much applies to the health care systems of both countries, too.

In absence of subsidy, no matter how cheap solar panels get, it is a waste of money to install photovoltaics before solar water heaters.

This is absolutely true - which is one reason you see more solar hot water heaters on new German construction. Partially because current regulations require a certain percentage of a home's energy needs to be met with renenwable sources - and solar hot water heaters are by far and away the best way to meet that requirement.

It isn't either/or in Germany - and let us not forget the current mandatory insulation standards.for new construction, which reduce the requirement for heating.

And solar air heating. But both are a pain. They also take up surface area. They require so homeowner expertise and tolerant neighborhoods and still seem a little technologically immature and expensive for glorified piping. I love the idea but I'd never mention it to my wife.

'They also take up surface area.'

Unused surface area on the roof.

'They require so homeowner expertise and tolerant neighborhoods and still seem a little technologically immature and expensive for glorified piping.'

The German units I'm familiar enough require no expertise at all - they just displace part of the hot water heating process using solar instead of gas/electricity. Or to put it a bit differently - if you already have a hot water heater in your house, you already have all the necessary expertise for a solar unit.

As for tolerant neighborhoods - well, we all know just how much a problem that is, in the land of the HOA. Where laws need to be passed to allow people not to use a clothes drier -

'As we and others have said, hundreds of thousands of people across Cascadia—and tens of millions across the United States—live where homeowners associations (HOAs) (or apartment or condo rules) ban clotheslines. Clotheslines are a quintessentially sustainable tool that saves money, prolongs the lifespan of laundry, and eliminates pollution. A “right-to-dry” movement has sprung up and won laws in six states––Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, and Vermont—to render these bans void and unenforceable. In another 13 states, I have discovered to my surprise and delight, solar access laws already on the books appear to protect solar drying.

Yet in all of these 19 states, illegal bans persist in community rulebooks, such as HOA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), and a number that likely runs into the millions of residents do not know they already have a right to dry. Solar access laws, many of them from the 1970s, and obscure amendments to state property law hardly fall in the category of common knowledge. When Sightline sent out an email alert asking people to let us know about bans where they live, over a third of responses came from inside these 19 states.'

This is not necessarily the case. While solar water heaters are much more efficient than using PV to heat water it's not necessarily cheaper. There are plenty of people in Australia who will benefit financially more from installing rooftop PV than solar water heating. Of course just which is best all depends on location, individual circumstances, feed-in tariffs, etc.

Generally, hot water heating does a better job in terms of energy efficiency/displacement, with the proviso this applies to areas that get cold. In other words, hot water heating in Germany makes all kinds of practical sense, especially in the spring and fall, whereas in Florida, it might be of considerably less benefit.

PV + heatpump hot water heater is now cost competitive with solar thermal hot water heating - especially in areas where frost protection is required.

That sounds like a pretty low rate of return on your investment? Or am I doing the calculations wrong. What's the marginal tarriff per kWh?

According to my latest electricity bill I am now paying 31.83 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity. That's about 31 US cents. So it's not hard to see why rooftop solar took off in Australia before it did in the US.

I checked the price from my local utility in Pennsylvania, PPL. The latest is 8.777 cents per kWh. Sounds like you are getting hosed for grid power in Australia. No wonder solar looks good by comparison.

Was 8.777 cents per kWh the peak rate or the average?

That's probably just for the "Generation Charges" though, right?

Looking at my bill in Greater Boston, I paid 7.5 cents for Generation and 9.3 cents for Delivery, for a total of 16.8 per kWh.

I found a list of US electricity costs by state:

In the lowest cost states electricity actually isn't as cheap as I expected it to be.

Chetty missed the mark in his article. I was disappointed to say the least. Here's why:

Agree, but for a different reason. Economics is a social science . I don't understand why so many economists go into a defensive posture and try to argue that economics is a 'science' kind of like physics. Anyhow, the person who asks the question should be required to clarify what do they mean by a science. Mathematics is queen of the sciences but it discovers truth though deduction not experiments.

Are we debating whether the subject is a science or whether the participants act scientifically?

East Asia wants the rest of the world to believe that they don't have sex, don't have babies and are old. It's about changing their image. East Asian countries have long had populations much larger than European countries and that happened through procreation not magic. It also was common to have children as young as 8 or 9 marry but normally in the mid-teenage years. Polygyny was the relationship structure. Prostitution was accepted and institutionalized. All those things run counter to what Europeans/ dispersion Europeans consider upstanding. East Asians have dove head first into immitating European ways fully or superficially since the European colonial era. From people who have lived in Japan they say that sex is going on frequently it's just not talked about.

Asians are actually less polygynous than Europeans:

Did women and men contribute equally to the lineage of contemporary populations? Did our ancestors, Homo sapiens, lean more toward polygamy or monogamy? To answer these questions, Dr. Damian Labuda, an investigator at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and a professor at the Department of Pediatrics of the Université de Montréal, headed a team that analyzed genomic data from three population samples of African, Asian and European origin. The study’s findings are published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Genetic Population History

In a strictly monogamous population, one would expect to have an equal number of breeding females and males and, therefore, a breeding sex ratio of one female to one male. In a population where males tend to have more than one female mate, more females than males contribute to reproduction; for this reason the breeding ratio exceeds one. The authors of this study estimate that the breeding ratio varies between 1.1 and 1.4 according to population: 1.1 in Asia, 1.3 in Europe and 1.4 in Africa.


This paper came to mind for me, as well.

That's an interesting study. How does it factor in the historical prevelance of infanticide of female babies across East Asia and the resulting sex ratio in favor of males?

The system of polygyny was banned in Japan in 1945. "Polygyny is a sanctioned marriage where one man can have several wives. In ancient Japan, nobility married up to 5 wives while the average commoner, ~ 2-3.

According to Women Under Polygamy by Walter Gallichan (1914), the practice of concubinage was practiced since time immemorial, a system popular in neighboring agrarian societies, particularly China, as necessary for bearing male heirs. The concept of "family" was much broader than its western counterpart, where workers living in a village are considered one family."

The study looked at genomic data to determine how polygynous populations are.

Infanticide of baby girls and a resulting sex ratio in favor of males can make polygyny more difficult since there are more males competing for each female.

Laws or custom themselves don't tell us the degree of polygyny. Today we still live in a nominally monogamous society, but due to the rise of pre- and extramarital sex, divorce and serial relationships, we have a situation of de facto polygyny that isn't formally recognized. It's conceivable that an Islamic society, in which polygyny with hard limits (4 wives max) is formally recognized, could have a lower degree of polygyny than our society today. For all we know, Japan is more polygynous today than it was before 1945. That's why they looked at genomic data.

The study suggests that you can find out how polygamous races are by looking at the diversity of genes among males and females. What I'm saying is East Asians throw a monkey wrench into that line of thinking because female babies were killed thereby uncutting the diversity in genes female East Asians would have. The rate of diversity among males and females is distorted because of East Asian's culture of killing female babies.

Right. Under polygyny, fewer men relative to women reproduce, resulting in greater genomic diversity among women than men. A tradition of female infanticide can inhibit polygyny since there are fewer women to go around for each man, resulting in lower genomic diversity among women relative to men over time.

The most polygynous populations in the world in sub-Saharan Africa have the highest female to male birth ratios in the world. In a polygynous environment, it's a better strategy to have more females since any given female is more likely to reproduce than a male.

Africa and Europe did not have cultures of female infanticide that East Asia had. To get around the gender inbalance caused by female infanticide women were forced to be more sexually open through concubinage and prostitution.

With female infanticide, the resulting gender balance is an excess of males relative to females. This means there are more males competing for each female and women can afford to be less promiscuous.

When the gender balance is the opposite and there is an excess of females relative to males, males are in short supply and have greater power over the sexual marketplace. Women must conform more to male preferences and be more sexually promiscuous.

Having read through the NYT editorial board comment picks, it seems safe to say that the NYT doesn't think much of economics. According to the comments economics is either not a science altogether or not being scientific when discouraging modern liberalism. What do the editor-approved comments of those much closer to the ruling class than the average American suggest, if anything, about the future course of this country? Do liberal thought-leaders propose an alternative to economics, or simply yielding to their preferences?

Comments for this post are closed