Assorted links

1. Ted Gioia’s 100 best albums of 2013.  Ted understands the acoustical nature of music, and the creation of alternative sound worlds, better than any other music critic I read.  Someone constructed a playlist from Ted’s picks here.  And The Economist picks best books of the year.  It is the best “best books” list so far this year.

2. Does GPS interfere with our internal mental maps?

3. Can you build a political party around the moral superiority of eunuchs?

4. Phasing in minimum wage hikes.

5. The winning essays on the “Cowen vs. Mokyr” theme, I think they are very good.

6. Matt Zwolinski defends the guaranteed annual income idea.


I often carry a GPS while hiking, generally more for keeping a track log then navigation. But I always make a point, when I'm lost, or trying to find all the landmarks to get out my map and compass first.

The GPS has been a nice backup in a couple of cases where turns were hard to find due to overgrown weeds, or being in deep woods, off trail.

The problem with GPS though is batteries fail, map and compass don't (unless of course the map burns, or blows away).

I think you can also call a trail a similar crutch. You can tune out so much of your surroundings when you're on a trail. I'm so much more aware of my surroundings when I'm off trail.

Personally, I find that GPS can be either beneficial or harmful to mental map formation. I do believe that turn-by-turn GPS nav in automobiles does interfere with mental map development (and the same is true when those directions come from a passenger). But when I'm sailing or hiking, the GPS helps keep my mental map accurate and up-to-date. In that case, I'm dealing with a map view, and matching up real (and mental) distances/directions/landmarks with what I'm seeing on the GPS.

I remember my dad and his peers saying sort of the same thing about Interstates, how the Interstates were removing the experience of the nation from traveling - "you never get to see America if you drive on the Interstates." That is my early 60s memory from sitting in the backseat of the car in traffic asking when that Interstate in the field would be open so we could get there faster.

I've done a lot of driving over the same stretches of highways, starting from basic directions provided by others in most cases, remember AAA TripTicks, and also pouring over maps.

Looking at maps, I would see what looked like short cuts, and used some on regular basis, but in too many cases making a wrong turn, and remembering the wrong turn. On the next trip, even after looking at the map trying to figure out how to avoid the wrong turn, I ended up repeating the wrong turn, my mental map integrated the bad turn as the eventual correct turn, until I had made the wrong turn and immediately realized I'd made the wrong turn. The wrong turns on the short cuts caused me to lose the time that might have been saved, and I stopped taking short cuts.

I collected lots of road maps. Road maps are not really trying to provide spacial awareness because that's too confusing when trying to drive on the roads, which are labeled in defiance of spacial orientation to assist in navigating the roads, not to understand the geography. Long sections of highway will be label North on section heading southeast, for example, as a highway from Virginia winds through the mountains to New England.

Interstates were routed where the land was open, and then development in many places was setback to avoid the noise of the highway or because the right-of-way was wide because the taking would have left property with little commercial value - taking the middle third of a field makes farming the rest difficult, so buying the entire field provides land for taking fill for overpasses or dumping the fill from cuts. That then renders the land not used for right-of-way even less developable.

When I got my GPS with good maps, I suddenly discovered that hundreds of miles of seemingly rural Interstate was cutting through high density suburban development built up around the Interstate. No road maps conveyed that information to users of Interstate and US highways. A city map will show an Interstate built through an old New England city as meandering all over the place, but one must focus on the traffic and road immediately ahead - no time to study a map, or look at the building and sun. However, the GPS map quickly informed where in the city I was and what lay 5 minutes ahead. This is on a route I drove easily a hundred times.

#4. Phasing in minimum wage hikes.

Caplan makes a good point that I hadn't considered before. If raising minimum wage is "good" then why phase it in. Just raise it. Maybe not immediately, just to give employers time to prepare the paperwork, if nothing else.

" $5.85 per hour 60 days after enactment (2007-07-24), to $6.55 per hour 12 months after that (2008-07-24), and finally to $7.25 per hour 12 months after that (2009-07-24)... "

Why would you not just go to $7.25 an hour "60 days after enactment"?

To spread out the negative effects, and thereby make them less noticeable, "boiling frog" style?

On 2, I am a long time hiker and mountain biker. I enjoy finding my way. At first I used topographic map and compass, and then GPS, but then stopped worrying and dropped back to imprecise trail maps. In the western mountains (or any city with a nearby mountain as reference point) navigation is easy. People should learn a few skills and then just trust themselves more. Key: if you are unsure where you are, the answer is to stop and think about it, and not to "keep looking."

People should learn a few skills and then just trust themselves more.

That's what I keep saying about poverty.....

Back in my day "math" was abstract, except for a few "make change" problems, and "personal finance" wasn't even an option until college classes. I'd hope we do better now.

On the other, search "map reading" in Google Books. "Map reading for aviators: with a chapter on aerial navigation" (1918) looks amusing.

#6. "The immediate stimulus for the conversation was the recent Swiss proposal to pay each and every and every citizen 2,500 francs (about 2,800 USD) per month."

I'm not sure if the Swiss proposal counts as a guaranteed minimum income. I wish the Swiss backers had gone for a smaller amount that was more likely to be enacted. I'm interested in the results and happy to have some else provide the laboratory.

Is there a critique of the guaranteed income idea from the left? Liberals are curiously quiet on the subject.

There's often visceral rage on the part of the Left when you get to the "We'll fund this by eliminating all the welfare agencies and budgets" argument.

Your evidence is what exactly? Are you arguing that cutting $10 in food stamps and replacing with $5 in EITC or similar on the basis of an unsubstantiated claim that 80% of food stamp costs is overhead and fraud is objected to on the fraud in the justification is "visceral rage on the part of the Left"?

He cites Tanner who was making the rounds a month or so ago claiming that all the welfare progress give a family over $80,000 in untaxed welfare benefits. He claimed that figure was arrived at by totally the total spending authorized in all the 126 welfare programs as if everyone qualifies for all of them. He didn't cite the $20,000 given in 6 on the radio.

Of course, a lot of "welfare" aid goes in large dollar amounts to a 10-20% of the people, the people who are like Stephen Hawking who Palin claimed a government health care system would kill. These are the disabled, or whatever term you use, kids who are no longer warehoused by the county to be forgotten while health problems solves the long term cost problems. One person may get tens of thousands in health care, plus tens of thousands in home aid, plus special transportation, plus special aid in public schools.

My mother had dementia and ultimately my dad could no longer keep track of her so she had to go into the nursing care unit which cost $8K+ per month in the 90s. My sister and I lived and worked elsewhere so we had to ability to provide the care. My parents savings were rapidly spent and my dad had little left by the time the assets were split to satisfy the county. He struggled to survive his cancer, paying from savings for drugs at $2K a week until his assets were nearly depleted, and then died soon after, as he visited her daily as she completely lost her mind - she had no idea who he was, but would calm down after a few minutes with him. She lived on welfare for months until she fell and broke her hip. That totally wiped her mind and she was bedridden for months.

My dad was a pastor and in the 50s and 60s sat with people and families as the elderly drowned from pneumonia which he saw over time as a gift for many. Unfortunately, the young also got pneumonia and died. Heart attacks killed many elderly, but it also killed many much younger. My mother was suffering from something that doctors could not quite figure out circa 1990, and was believed to have had heart attacks and strokes from high blood pressure, but by the mid-90s, either the newer drugs or something unknown, left her in the best physical health she had been in for decades. Thus, the natural solutions to shorten the life of a person like my mother never occurred until pneumonia finally got her years too late. She was one of the poor getting $100K in welfare in the 90s, which is probably closer to $200K. And even when bedridden, she was eating and drinking when fed by the nursing aides, so she was not kept alive by artificial means, she was simply a baby in her 80s, eating, pooping, crying, sleeping.

One attack on the health care system gets to the fact that my mother who would not have wanted to cost $10K per month to be helpless gets all the money while poor children needing lifesaving surgery struggle to find a way to pay for it because Tanner is wrong in his claim that you can easily get $80K in welfare under the 126 welfare laws.

What was the reaction when liberals merely included payments for patients talking with doctors on end-of-life options to see if my mother's situation could have been avoided? It wasn't "visceral rage on the part of the Left", but "visceral rage on the part of the Right led by Sarah Palin".

"Your evidence is what exactly?"

I think your post kind of makes the point.

Mulp writes 3000 words, no one knows why

Sorry for yourl loss and what you had to go through.

It's probably because liberals would accept guaranteed income in a heartbeat, Brian. What's to argue? (Now, a cynic might ask if conservatives actually want to do it, or are just happy talking bout it, as a ... actually I was going to use "distraction" in the mild sense of attention, but it could be distraction in a colder sense as well.

jp, you're a smart guy, but you should spend less time arguing against your bogeymen and more time sticking to the topic at hand.

"liberals would accept guaranteed income". Wow. Good thing they weren't merely willing to "accept" gay marriage. Why does every pro-guaranteed income piece I see come from libertarians (bleeding heart or otherwise), rather than the traditional left? Why aren't liberals actively supporting or pushing for such policies? I think JWatts is onto something here.

That wasn't much of a serious attempt to convince me that guaranteed income is anything other than canard, was it? Did you actually go ad hominem there?

Is there actually a serious attempt to introduce guaranteed income on the table, which liberals should respond to? Or is it used, a la JWatts, to indict current programs you do not like, without any serious attempt at replacement?

I mean, ye gods, if you can name me a House Resolution or even a draft bill, I'll capitulate immediately.

So odd... apparently, liberals have no ideas of their own, they just listen to Republican ideas until they hear something they like.

As far as ad hominen, my first sentence wasn't an argument against your comment, just an observation. Yesterday, you were blowing up climate change deniers. I admit I was surprised to see how far behind the conversation you were. You felt no need to respond to the arguments at hand, because you KNEW it was just a smokescreen. And same here. So yeah, you know a thing or two about ad hominen.

Nobody supported Filner's bill in 2006.

It was interesting to skim the history of the Filner bill:

Thus, under the current system, a single person earning $10,000 pays $180 income tax. Under the new plan, the individual would get a tax “refund” of $861, a difference of $1041.

Under the current tax system, a person who has no income at all gets no credits at all. Under the new plan, he or she would get $2000, a difference of $2000.

Obviously that's not sized to displace the "welfare agencies and budgets" of JWatts, and so yeah, that kind of bill would be a poor trade. Brian, JWatts, have you got something you can really use to complain that "liberals are just greedy to keep these other programs too?"

You can find the full story here:

Doc 179 "The Rise and Fall of a Basic Income Guarantee Bill in the U.S. Congress"


Nobody is talking about greed. Mike Munger summed it up well on his blog:

"The Basic Income idea is a bit like the Fair Tax idea: both try to smuggle in reforms that would actually solve lots of problems, but only if we can assume that the "clean" proposal is implemented. Fair Tax-ers assume that the Congress really, really will accept getting rid of the Income Tax. (Implausible). Basic Incomers assume that the Congress really, really will accept losing all discretion over who gets extra cash and benefits. (Very Implausible)."

The biggest problem with Fair Tax is innumeracy. In any form proposed it cannot produce revenues to cover the programs the same backer supports. In that way, it is a canard, possibly like guaranteed income. I mean, again, if you are only offering $2000 in guaranteed income, to displace let's say $4000 in various assistance, you want to blame rejection on the listener?

Seriously, relate "guaranteed income" to some "maintenance minimum" for food, shelter, and (public) transportation. Does it get there?

"So odd… apparently, liberals have no ideas of their own, they just listen to Republican ideas until they hear something they like."

"Why does every pro-guaranteed income piece I see come from libertarians (bleeding heart or otherwise), rather than the traditional left? Why aren’t liberals actively supporting or pushing for such policies?"

Liberals have been calling for higher wages and benefits.

Liberals have two reasons for doing so:

1. Work is something that is integral to the American sense of dignity - most Americans do not feel dignity if not working. On the other hand, work that pays so little you can not support yourself indicates the employer refuses to give you the respect of paying a fair wage.

If I demand a small business sell goods at a loss, you would be outraged. If I argued that the small business owner should live inside his business to stay in business, because he is making unreasonable demands that he have a home to live in, because WalMart has set the market price for substitutes for his good so low his expectation that he have a home us outrageous. The market says he should be homeless and huddle in the back of his business to sleep. The market as defined by WalMart getting tax breaks from the town or county, or driving down profits and wages at suppliers, simply require the small business person to operate at a business loss and labor for free.

Note that a lot of individuals start money losing businesses over and over because they have a economically irrational objective, or they are risk takers who optimistically think they will find success. And sometimes do, but they chose that.

2. Ron Unz has expressed the other point rather better than liberals and progressives:

"The obvious endpoint of this approach (welfare plus no minimum wage) would be for businesses to pay their workers nothing, and have all salaries and social benefits covered by the government as an “anti-poverty measure,” a proposal which would surely seem very attractive to employers and their influential lobbyists."

Which I read as a description of a corporate communism: to the corporations according to their greed, to the workers according to their needs.

But higher wages is that evil redistribution of wealth thing. Those working for minimum wage at WalMart and fast food joints, plus the rest of Mitt's 47% do not buy 100% of the output of those low wage employers. Given they are only 47%, and its is out of the 47% that deliver the fresh produce that dress the burger as well as the $50+ meal and everything in between, a higher minimum wage means higher prices of the common good that the poor and Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett eat, so "wealth is redistributed from the rich to the workers" by higher wages forcing higher prices.

Maybe higher prices for salad greens will lead to the poor substituting growing their own, or maybe "poke salad" (going out and finding food in the wild), or buying used clothes at Salvation Army, Goodwill, and yard sales, but the 53% will simply pay the higher prices with little impact. It is doubtful that they will harm the economy if they stop pouring $100 a month into driving up stock prices of companies that are not investing in new capital assets and instead pay higher prices which pay higher wages.

The question is why some people think corporate welfare is a good thing because corporations should be able to drive wages to zero to boost profits.

The question is why some people think corporate welfare is a good thing because corporations should be supplied with consumers without having to pay workers to be consumers.

Logically, if all corporations could replace 90% of workers with robots, who would all the corporations sell their goods and services to? The robots?? Only the management and owners of the robots - the shareholders?

“So odd… apparently, liberals have no ideas of their own, they just listen to Republican ideas until they hear something they like.” -

Passing off ignorance as condescension isn't very flattering. Every pro guaranteed income piece you see comes from libertarians because you read libertarians and likely don't know much of anything about the left or follow its policy advocacy in any detail.


Raising the minimum wage only makes it illegal for anyone to work for less than the minimum wage. It does nothing to increase the wages of people making more than the minimum wage. The people making between the former minimum wage and the new minimum wage may or may not retain their employment. So if you're expecting a raise in minimum wage to 'push up' all wages, you're mistaken.

(Or is it (lolz) "here we are offering $2000 per year, and liberals won't give up housing assistance!")

No they aren't.

Carole Pateman
Philip von Parjis.
Bruce Ackerman
Erik Olin Wright

See, for example:

A low minimum is still a minimum, genius.

The unfortunate reality is that there will have to be more govt. spending to subsidize the rising living expenses for these people given that wages on the lowest end aren't keeping up with non-treasury based inflation and companies don't want to reduce profits if they can legally avoid it. Retraining the bulk of the low earning workforce is feasible within any reasonable time frame. Were going to have more disability claims for minor or non existent ailments, food stamps and welfare.

Bryan Caplan hits the nail on the head, right on the sweet spot.

Any "best of 2013" music that doesn't have Deafheaven's Sunbather on it is sorely lacking. Indeed he appears to have dramatically undersampled techno and metal. It's nice to see a list give more complete coverage to jazz and world though.

Anybody know the page number in the NYT style book that decrees that castrati be referred to by feminine pronouns?

I think thats just a thing in India. I have no idea what the Sanskrit / Persian / Hindi word for Eunuch is, but I am fairly sure it isn't Castrati. The impression I get is that some class of people have been doing this -- including dressing and acting as women -- for centuries, and then English that stuck to them was "Eunuch".

I expect more modern surgical methods will slowly replace the practice.

A eunuch is a male human whose testicles have been removed. Removing the male genitalia, or a portion thereof, doesn't turn the male into a female. A male equine, for instance is a horse, castrated he becomes a gelding. He never becomes a female, a mare, nor is he referred to as "she". Dressing and acting as a woman doesn't make a testicle-less man into a woman either. Neither Milton Berle nor Flip Wilson became women by dressing like them, regardless of their genitalia. This story is a perfect example of the weird world view of the editorial staff of the NYT.

#4: "But what if you're a ruthless demagogue, pandering to the public's economic illiteracy in a quest for power?"

A more charitable interpretation is that the lawmakers are acknowledging some uncertainty in their model and attempting to manage risk: perhaps their advisers have reviewed the literature and concluded that raising the minimum wage by d would raise unemployment by no more than u (where u may be zero). Spreading the increase over 2 years, each of which sees a wage hike of d/2, gives the lawmakers a chance to assess the effects on unemployment. If there is an unexpected rise in u after one year, the second half of the phase-in can be canceled. If the entire increase is done at once though, there is no chance to reverse it in the case of an unexpected bad outcome because lowering the minimum wage is (probably) politically impossible.

But if that were so, then they would be publicly saying that they were monitoring the employment situation -- thus making their opponents seem more unreasonable.

Perhaps they are managing risk. Perhaps they genuinely believe the increase is a net good but are afraid of unemployment effects. Deep down they believe both these contradictory things, but the pessimistic belief is buried in that selfish, hypocritical subconscious that we all have. So they boldly and altruistically promote the policy, and quietly hedge the risk. But they hedge in a purely selfish way.

re the best of music list: these lists always seem to be for old people. Nothing in there I'd play in a club. And nobody under 30 listens to jazz anyway. At least there's some latin and african stuff, the lists that were posted here in the past years were always so embarrasingly america-centric. Still, nothing French, German or Korean/Japanese...

What do jazz musicians under 30 listen to?

Indie rock, metal, and techno. My best friend is a 30 year old jazz musician and he won't shut up about CHVRCHES. In general I would say they're more interested in tightly produced indie or more experimental techno. Lo-fi/DIY is too grungy.

No French?!?!?! Daft Punk is on virtually every "best of" list I've seen this year. :)

"Can you build a political party around the moral superiority of eunuchs?"

No. Eunuchs were used quite often in Asian monarchies as essentially close aides to the monarch, because they were seen as less of a threat to the ruling dynasties than were people who could sire offspring. Their record is mixed. They were often capable administrators (there were even a few good eunuch generals), but had a reputation of abusing their proximity to the monarch and for being greedy.

Anyway the particular advantage of eunuchs in politics should not be relevant today, which is why they were phased out. You also have the problem of being able to field enough candidates.

We don't really need eunuchs today since we have gay men, who provide similar advantages to elite men.

Eunuchs were part of royal households because they weren't perceived as being capable of running amok in harems. It's an Asiatic thing.

Can you build a political party around the moral superiority of eunuchs?

Interestingly, politics today is increasingly built around the moral superiority of gay men, who are increasingly taking more political positions and are a favored group of the elites. Gay men aren't a threat to cosmopolitan elites. Indeed they are a support demography not unlike the eunuchs so well loved by elites in the past.

Re basic income:

No good. Basic income is like a share in the state's power to tax, the payments being the dividend. The difference between this and the more familiar dividend-bearing corporate equity arrangement is: whenever anyone has a baby, there is an automatic stock split, with the new issue handed to that mother. This seriously distorts the baby-making decision. It's not hard to show that the result is not only dysgenic, it's punitive to intact families that are responsible enough to match their baby-making decisions to their resources.

I think you have to be an adult to qualify for basic income. I don't think babies or their parents would get it.

true but not very relevant analytically.

Obviously it is very relevant analytically. If babies or their parents don't get the extra basic income, then your objection doesn't even apply.

The lack of a basic income distorts population issues more and is more dysgenic. With a basic income, the citizens are essentially shareholders of the polity. As a result they have to think rationally about immigration and population within their polity since they won't want their shares diluted by mass immigration and population growth. Without a basic income, the wealthy and employers can influence policy to promote mass immigration to increase their rents and lower their labor costs while diluting the relative wealth of the majority.

It doesn't distort the "baby-making decision" any more than the "familiar dividend-bearing corporate equity arrangement."

Yes it does. This is a fine exchange we're having here.

ladderff, I think it would help to state your point a little more clearly. And perhaps try to keep your comments from sounding so snide.

No, the basic income is like a share in a mutual insurance company. A mutual insurance company, whose object is the establishment of artificial property rights will, in its “articles of the association” be required by the signatory, “if he be a man of sense”, to pay a dividend to him as a voting share holder. As a corollary, this man of sense will also demand terms in the articles of the association that amount to “the politics of exclusion” which will necessarily mean things like immigration restriction to the land rights enforced by the mutual insurance company; and also exclusion from membership in the association those who do not add to the value of membership in it, like babies.

also exclusion from membership in the association those who do not add to the value of membership in it, like babies.

Right, which is why the basic income is not like this.

What do you mean "basic income is not like this"? "Basic income" does not say that babies must receive income.

Most babies become adults within 18 years. The stock splits.

For the net recipients: that your children, each of them, no matter how many you will have, will receive an annuity at age 18 puts upward pressure on your baby-making decision. That the check doesn't officially go to the parents doesn't do away with this effect, under the reasonable assumptions that people value their kids' welfare and would have more of them if ceteris paribus they'd be better off, and that kids give gifts to their parents in adulthood, the moreso the more money they have.

The net payers out there also have their baby-making decision affected because they have less with which to invest in their kids. Being responsible (suckers), they therefore have fewer children. This is happening now, a very clear trend. You might say, 'but those kids would receive also the same annuity,' but if a net payer is likely to produce net-paying children then it's still downward pressure on the baby-making decision.

jim your analysis has it backward. Immigration and this issue point in the same direction: existing shares in the nation being inflated away by the mere ability to make babies.

No, you have it exactly backward.

With a basic income, the citizens are shareholders of the polity. As a result they are forced to think rationally about immigration and population within their polity since they won’t want their shares diluted by mass immigration and dysgenic population growth.

Without a basic income, the wealthy and employers influence policy to promote mass immigration to increase their rents and lower their labor costs while diluting the relative wealth of the majority. They cite the decline in majority fertility and make lots of noise about 'economic growth' to promote immigration of higher fertility groups.

These political shares are being inflated away precisely because they are concentrated among the wealthy and employers and aren't distributed among the citizenry. The benefits are concentrated, while the costs are dispersed.

Note that "the stock splits" in effect regardless of whether there is a basic income or citizen's dividend or not. So that's not any sort of objection to a basic income or citizen's dividend.

PS there is a solution here: offer the basic income and limit the fertility of the recipients, e.g. one child per man. Offering state assistance to low-income, low-wealth people is not a radical idea. Offering it with no strings of any kind whatsoever attached, is a radical idea, and a bad one.

No, offering an unconditional basic income or citizen's dividend to each citizen is a perfectly rational and sensible idea. Offering state assistance to low-income, low-wealth people i.e. means testing is the radical and bad idea. Means testing promotes public sector rent-seeking.

The solution is simple: finance the basic income or citizen’s dividend paid out evenly to all adults with a use fee for property rights.

As long as you don’t charge a use for property rights i.e. tax the liquidation value of net assets at the long-term GDP growth rate, you will be evolving a parasitic elite that think solely in terms of increasing GDP and thus resort to flooding the economy with more cheap labor and slaves.

That's also sort of a solution in search of a problem. The entire point of a polity is, as ringo suggested above, to be a "mutual insurance company" or land trust to hold territory exclusively for its inhabitants and their posterity. You know, lebensraum i.e. living space.

#2: some people is more orientation aware than others, guess is something genetical. don't worry, if you're in the disoriented group keep using your GPS and be happy cause surely you're talented in something else. not all the people need to have the same set of skills to be intelligent.

Gioia rocks! Whoops, I mean, swings!

You do know that essentially the only time minimum wage employment increases in the US is the year the minimum wage goes up. Generally if the minimum wage is unchanged minimum wage employment falls.

So I guess Caplan is just looking for a way to cut minimum wage employment
since it is only about 3% of employment.

Comments for this post are closed