Assorted links


Would anyone consider the world described in Brave New World "libertarian?" In that world, drugs were legal, sex was unbound from morality, there were no barriers between peoples and the sexes were equal. Gay marriage and legal weed seems to put libertarians into a trance, but a world with both could be monstrously totalitarian.

I think it was a good list, in the sense that it was fun overall. And sure, while it shows a lot of libertarainish trends, there probably is some selection bias.

Adolf Hitler loved dogs. A world where people love dogs could be monstrously totalitarian.

You should turn that telescope around and look through the small end.

Thiel's graph appears to compare total student debt to per capita (or per graduate) earnings. Does that make any sense? If the number of college students has increased over the time period under study (and I think it has), then total debt could increase even as per student debt has remained flat (I do not think it has remained flat, but the graph does not tell us anything about how much it has increased).

This seems like a very good example of how to lie with graphs.

Or, it illustrates more people paying more to pursue falling ROI.

Sure, it does that, but the problem he mentioned is there, beyond the bubble.

I agree, although even with "per capita" numbers I reckon it ain't pretty.

Someone posted this in the comments on the link as well. It would be better to show per capita debt but this illustrates the point fine as well. A quick glance at enrollment numbers shows enrollment is up 1/3rd since 2004 vs. ,according to the graph, debt load being up 3x.

#3 - I have a different "take."

What shocks me is not the aggregate or individual student load, it's the decline in median income for persons with bachelor's degrees. That increases default probabilities. Why are median incomes for college grads declining?

I would guess one reason median income is falling is because the number of college grads is increasing (in absolute terms and as a percent of the population). Increase in supply = lower prices. Also, the new graduates are probably of lower average ability. I do not think this explains all of the decline (Great Stagnation probably plays a role as well). It would be interesting to see the time series of earnings from college graduates of the same "cohort" (same test scores, SES, etc.).

#2 - All the talk of Millennials living at home, failing to grow up, whatever, and it has only been since the onset of the Great Recession that we actually see any increase in the percentage living with their parents compared with 1968 - and it's only 4%? Mostly, the change seems to be young adults living with (a) roommates or (b) unmarried significant others.

The surface level percentages might be misleading. I suspect the people living with their parents in 1968 were younger, more likely to be female, and less likely to have attended college. Probably also safe to assume that in 1968, you had fewer of the nominally "independent" who were actually entirely dependent on daddy money or student loans or other government money. Besides, there's a lot more to growing up and being an adult than just being able to pay your rent. IMO, you're not really fully an adult until you have a stable marriage with children in a single family home. And that doesn't seem to be in the cards at all for a huge proportion of this generation.

That seems a little overly restrictive of a definition. I would have just qualified for adulthood this year, at 29, although I've been financially independent of my parents since I started college, and married for 8 years. I was dumber about the world in my early 20s, but I was still taking care of myself.

#1 is good.

#2a. Resurgence of radio?

#2b. Dumb metric. "First, unified party control typically yields more productive congresses, while divided government dampens legislative performance." I laughed.

#7 is very interesting.

#1 is awesome!

#6 - How much electricty does each neutron convert into? The gas pellets also seem to be one-time use. Does that limit the usefulness of the system?

#6 - nuclear fusion of the NIF or ITER type are always decades away and even if it works will never be economical. We should stop wasting billions on this and fund multiple smaller projects instead that have a shot at getting us to working prototypes (with cheaper running costs than coal) in 10+ years. There are lots of viable projects: on the hot fusion side there's LPP, EMC2, General Fusion, Tri-Alpha, Lockheed Martin. On nuclear fission there's the potential of inherently fail-safe new designs in the form of molten salt or lead cooled reactors (China is funding this, look up LFTR or DFR to name only some). Finally there's a lot of momentum in a field formerly known as cold fusion, now called low energy nuclear reactions. Only one of these will need to come through, it's an open race but it's clear it's not going to be the tokamak or laser fusion.

Huh? This article isn't about ITER or NIF. It's about a two to three order of magnitude lower cost alternative at Sandia Labs. So... umm... yeah...

To answer the question, there's a highly visible example of working fusion about 93 million miles from here, so yes we have high hopes that we'll be able to replicate something similar on a smaller scale some day. I kinda like those Polywell fusors myself.

It's good to see a cheaper approach but it's still likely to be down the wrong path: only a few percent of the input into a laser makes it into the beam so true "ignition" may still be a long way off. It also requires tritium, which must be bred in the walls of the reactor. The pellets need to be near-perfect and are very expensive to make. Finally, not one of the privately funded ventures is using lasers, which is telling you something. A few million may be well-spent here if it leads to better understanding of the basic science better but NIF and ITER should be cancelled and the freed up funds dispersed among multiple research efforts to get us to the goal of truly disruptive energy production more quickly.

Any approach that relies on the compression of a hot gas is the wrong approach. The very first laboratory demonstration of fusion took place in near-vacuum, achieving fusion via directed energetic deuterons rather than random motions. Reliance on random motions of gas molecules necessarily leads to the need to achieve high levels of compression of very hot gases. If it were easy to do, that might not be a problem -- but it's very difficult. They use magnetic fields of extraordinary strength. If that was a good way to push gases around, why don't we see fans and vacuum cleaners that work that way? It's just about the worst way to compress a gas, if we define "worst" to mean most expensive and least efficient.

I'm working on an approach to fusion which, if successful, will take place at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature. This is not cold fusion -- I call it nanoscale hot fusion to avoid the taint of that term -- but more than 99.9% of the material in the reaction chamber will be at ambient temperature when the fusion reaction begins. If successful, it will be trivial to use this approach to heat water for driving turbines.

I won't say what my approach is, but in the course of thinking about it, I believe I have discerned what FOGBANK is. I was considering whether my approach could be used to build a bomb, and I believe the answer is no (though it could serve as a neutron source for transmuting U-238 to plutonium for making a fission bomb). If I am correct, FOGBANK shares some aspects with my approach, but differs in very important ways. The interesting conclusion is that FOGBANK might be used to produce fusion bombs with no minimum size. You might be able to ignite FOGBANK with an electric spark or a high-power UV LED. Once you initiate the fusion reaction, the light pressure from the reaction front will propagate the reaction until all of the FOGBANK is used up. If my speculation is true, you could make a fusion bomb that would fit inside of a rifle bullet -- something like Herman Kahn's proposed californium bullets, but real and practical.

I’m working on an approach to fusion which, if successful, will take place at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature. This is not cold fusion

Yes, it is definitely cold fusion.

David, this should be easy. First get a mass about 332,946 times the mass of the Earth, then ......

"With its relatively slim US$5-million annual budget, MagLIF is a David next to two fusion Goliaths: the $3.5-billion National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and the €15-billion (US$20-billion) ITER experiment under construction in France."

This is the key passage in the article. A paltry USD $5 M is being spent, which is trivial, yet it still might work. We need better patent laws to protect for a longer period any truly pioneering inventions such as fusion. Currently 20 years from the filing date of a patent is not enough protection. The better the protection, the more "Mark Thorson" (see this thread) people we will see. Some of them will be crackpots, but not all.

It's amazing that the earth's population relies on largely uncompensated Good Samaritans for their innovation, despite the fact the Solow model's long term growth depends solely on innovation. It's really a shame. If we had better patent laws for longer we would be way ahead now (our current laws, hardly optimal, have been in place for only a couple of generations, and their emphasis has changed from anti-patent to pro-patent and back and forth during that time). Quite possibly we'd have fusion by now, and we'd have discovered how to make human cells nearly immortal (another science article, that I sent to TC but he did not link it, mentions a recent breakthrough in this field, again done by largely unheralded government boffins and private researchers).

I think overfunding is responsible for the lack of progress in fusion. If I give you $1 billion to do something in fusion, you'll look at what people did before, then do something like that but bigger and better. You won't gamble it on a truly radical approach.

Patents are a major motivator for me. I used to say my experiment had between 1/1000 and 1/10,000 chance of working, but the patent if it works is easily worth >$1 billion, so the ~$1000 I've spent on equipment and materials is well worth the risk. Now, I just need the time to run the experiment.

I sometimes wonder how the Soviet Union managed to produce so many stunning technological achievements and discoveries when there was so little monetary reward for their inventors.

"I sometimes wonder how the Soviet Union managed to produce so many stunning technological achievements and discoveries when there was so little monetary reward for their inventors"



"In many ways, looking across local job markets at the relationship between inequality and mobility is more informative than looking across countries, as Corak did. Countries differ strongly not only in terms of mobility and inequality but in terms of population size and composition, institutional features of the economy and government, politics and policy, and culture."

After reading this, I saved myself the trouble of reading the rest. Winship is nothing if not selective in what he finds important confirmation of his bias.

Is fusion going to end up working?

Looks like it just might. Major breakthrough:

Are you referring to NIF as a 'major breakthrough'? I don't think until any of these reach ignition do they count as a break through.

For fusion to "work" it's going to have to be competitive with other sources of energy and this doesn't seem likely given the probable capital cost of a fusion power plant. I think those hoping that fusion will be used to supply electricity on earth will be disappointed.

2. On net, will these trends make the country more or less libertarian? And Sarah Binder on whether we have gridlock.

Ai yi yi, so much wrong with both of these.

In the "net trends" piece, I do not know *any* observant practicing Catholic who would describe themself/themselves as a "strong Catholic" whatever that means. I do know many observant practicing Catholics who describe themselves as "bad Catholics" and as "sinners".

I also find it odd that the lamestream media portrays the libertarian view of gay marriage as one of support. I know many libertarians who do not support gay marriage, but rather believe the state should get out of the marriage business altogether. Let people contract with one another however they want to contract. And the only reason we must "legalize" marijuana is because the state criminalized it.

It is similar to the way the lamestream media (and some libertarians) ignores or downplays the large number of libertarians who are pro-life (e.g., Ron Paul).

In that same article, it is only number 7 (single mothers) that worries me.

For my money, the fewer laws Congress passes and the fewer regulations promulgated by government agencies the more productive they are.

You should be worried about #8 too if you're interested in the future of libertarianism.

"I know many libertarians who do not support gay marriage, but rather believe the state should get out of the marriage business altogether."

Then they support "marriage equality". Equality in the sense that nobody gets a state-approved "marriage"; there are only civil unions. Practically speaking, this kind of "marriage equality" is the same as "supporting gay marriage". Both are going to piss off the average supporter of "traditional marriage".

Student loan debt for people who are reasonable about undergrad (going to a state school, or a private school with a good merit or need-based scholarship) is still pretty manageable. It's professional school debt, and private school sticker price debt, that is killer. It's alarming to know people who are $200k in debt with just two pieces of paper - a B.A. and a J.D. - to show for it. And supposedly MDs can end up in something more like $400k in debt, which is soul crushing to contemplate.

Whoops. This doesn't go here at all.

Evidently a marriage is a contract with three signatories, one of whom is the state, at least for now. According to the latest court decisions the number could logically increase dramatically, however.

You mean this decision?

It's possible to believe it would be best for the government to be out of the marriage business, and to believe that subsidy for straight marriage makes a lot more sense than subsidy for gay marriage.

Another libertarian who thinks we were hoodwinked on this one.

Sure. My post was just to push back against the person who says "I'm not pro-gay marriage! I think the government should get out of the marriage business altogether and just recognize binary civil unions regardless of the participants' gender!" as if there's a huge difference. From the perspective of those who are most strongly opposed to gay marriage there's little difference between the two positions.

This is a fair point, though I'm not sure that's what anon meant. I understood him to mean that people could sign whatever contracts they want, but that the state wouldn't assign any special status to married people for income tax, estate tax, compulsion to testify, child custody, alimony, etc. But you might have been right.

It would be unlibertarian to ban some class of contracts because they are distasteful. It would be libertarian to say maybe there shouldn't be a subsidy at all, and it's egregious to extend it where the basis for the subsidy no longer applies.

Some potential issues with Thiel's chart:

1. The total student debt is inflation-adjusted but not per capita. Maybe there's more debt because there are more graduates. I'm not saying that's the case, but it seems like real-debt-per-graduate would be a more interesting stat to use.

2. The total cumulative debt includes folks who may have graduated 5 or 10 years ago. I'd prefer to look at real-debt-per-graduate for only the set of bachelor's holders who graduated in the last calendar year. It also includes debt held by those who never actually earned a bachelor's degree.

3. The median salary for someone with a bachelor's degree suffers the same problem: it includes people who may have earned their degree ten, twenty or thirty years ago. If these folks (who are going to be more highly compensated than recent graduates) are exiting the workforce at a higher-than-usual rate then it might depress the median bachelor's salary even if it were increasing at the "recent graduate" end.

4. The higher debt may be driven by more students seeking graduate degrees. In that case we need two comparisons: one for the "bachelor's only" group and one for the "graduate degree" group.

Student loan debt for people who are reasonable about undergrad (going to a state school, or a private school with a good merit or need-based scholarship) is still pretty manageable. It’s professional school debt, and private school sticker price debt, that is killer. It’s alarming to know people who are $200k in debt with just two pieces of paper – a B.A. and a J.D. – to show for it. And supposedly MDs can end up in something more like $400k in debt, which is soul crushing to contemplate. - See more at:

And now I've linked my own comment. Too early with the whiskey I guess.

And darn it, so many of those high school grads are required to go get that BA and JD and maybe MD, too.

Agreed. But let's do numbers. Assume the following:

* In-state tuition of $10k/yr; $10k year in additional living costs
* Degree takes four years
* No income while getting degree
* $25k/yr in lost wages while getting degree; $10k of which goes to cover basic living costs
* Debt repaid over 30 years at a fixed-rate of 4.5% (like a mortgage)
* Net profit in the non-college scenario invested in an account that earns 4.5% yearly

Non-college scenario:

At T=4 you have $60k in a fund earning 4.5%/yr, no debt, and no degree. At T=34 you have $60k * 1.045^30 (= $224k) + whatever you've managed to save over that period. I'm ignoring interest earned from T=0 to T=4.

College scenario:

At T=4 you have $80k of debt, no savings, but a degree. We can calculate roughly what the yearly earnings premium needs to be in order for this guy to wind up in identical shape to the non-college guy. Let's call this P, and suppose for the sake of argument that P is constant over the 30 year window (which is silly, but yeah).

Call non-college guy's yearly earnings N. College guy's yearly earnings are then N + P - D where D is his debt payment. We'll assume he contributes the yearly delta between his earnings and non-college guy's earnings, i.e. P - D, to an investment account with the same yield as the one non-college guy uses for his nest-egg.

D is known. $4800/year for 30 years. We'll ignore the fact that college guy may reap some tax savings by deducting the interest on this loan.

In order to hit $224k at T=34 (starting at T=4) the college guy must contribute $3500/year to his investment account. That's on top of the $4800/year he has to pay to cover his debt.

So he needs to average about a $8300/year earnings premium over non-college guy over a 30 year career (post-degree) to wind up in roughly the same financial shape at T=34. That seems pretty doable. It also ignores the fact that both of them will probably end up working more than just 34 years starting from high school graduation and that the college guy will, by virtue of his higher earnings, net more over the last 10-15 years of his career (which falls outside the period analyzed here) than the non-college guy.

I can tell you that, short of getting lucky with a business venture, it's fairly unlikely I would be earning anything close to what I earn now (minus $8300/year) if I had opted out of getting a bachelor's degree.

Have you seen what dental school can run now? NYU estimates $113,000 per year


#7 We know that none of that can be true. Graphs can't be trusted. Especially when they produce a different picture than we want.

Tyler would you recommend (in advance) Diane Coyle's book on GDP?

No need to read a book to recommend it, after all. Or post a link that generates a bit of revenue through Amazon.

#1: And I thought a cutaway was a garment!

#2 "US should mind it's own business internationally"
Geez. how about US should mind it's own business domestically?

It seems like the cutaway hasn't been lost, it has moved to the medium of computer gaming. Entire cities and their interiors are built from a floating, isometric perspective. In these types of games the play controls an avatar from the third person perspective, so any blocking wall or item in the environment needs to be removed. In the end it looks a lot like the illustrations in the first link, with each game exploring a different atheistic of the cutaway.

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