Assorted links


#5: Seeing an old red like Vanessa Redgrave protesting anything in the West makes me want to vomit. The reason people want there to be a Hell is so loathsome carbuncles like her will have a place to suffer in eternity.

That said, I wonder why they have implemented the policy. Given the bureaucratic tilt of Britain these days, caprice is most likely not the reason. Most likely the cost of inspecting books for drugs and weapons is the answer. American jails are awash in both and all of it comes from outside the walls.

As I understand it, they are not banning books, but inmates are limited to 12 books in their cell at a time, they can get books from the library, but if they want to buy books instead, their right to use their own money will be regulated by a privileges and incentive program intended to encourage rehabilitation.

I know that in at least some prisons here in the US, they are very concerned about the idea that messages might be smuggled into prison in books, but I'm not sure if this had any baring on the UK's new ruling.

In Baltimore, prisoners run their criminal enterprises from their jails, with the help of the guards. That's the guards they have not impregnated, I suppose.

The AB manages to run sophisticated criminal gang in the Federal system using coded messages. The Black Guerrilla Family uses liberal attorneys as couriers to run their operation.

It's why I think the return of penal colonies is inevitable:

"Most likely the cost of inspecting books for drugs and weapons is the answer. American jails are awash in both and all of it comes from outside the walls."
That's true for drugs and intoxicants, other meds, food and tobacco. And (commonly) re phones, tattooing supplies, and certain raw materials. But weapons are easy enough to make inside (guns (obviously) and brass knuckles beings some exceptions).
Books are problems for DoC staff because (a) it's fairly easy to lace paper with a variety of substances, and (b) it's an obviously way of making unauthorized communications.

On a related note, as devout a foodie as Tyler may be, I'm pretty sure I can one-up him in the "strange and rare" category: "Tastes of the Abyss: Prisons of the Third World Told in Food and Photographs."
(Note: Not the actual cover; but very close.)

Uh, that is an awfully childish sentiment.

Why? Vanessa Redgrave has spent her life campaigning for the policies of the Khmer Rouge to be applied in the West. She has supported every vile, loathsome cause it has been possible to support. It is rank hypocrisy for her to claim to be concerned about Western prisoners lacking books when she has spent her entire life defending systems that leave Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and dozens of other hell holes without food.

Restricting books is a crime but starving them to death is just fine? She is truly a morally leperous toad.

I can buy a pack of cigarettes.
I can't by a pack of self control.

Creating a financial punishment for myself if I smoke is not the same as self control.

I don't smoke or drink anymore, but I still wish I had better mental control. I'd like to buy self control when I let myself become negative, specifically when thinking about my impending divorce. Where am I going to purchase the mental discipline to focus on work, class, and my daughter while dealing with a wife who wants two husbands? Is it next to the bottle of Jack or the carton of Camels?

The link has one example of one website that allows people to bet against their own bad habits. Not exactly a comprehensive study.

I would not do steroids, but I'd shoot myself up to have iron clad mental strength that would let me see better results in the gym.

I doubt I'm alone in that regard.

#1: A picture from the writer's twitter:

also from #1: "Here, people are allowed to fetch their own doughnuts from the shelves (it encourages them to take more, Dunkin’ says)."
This seems like such an obvious move. Why don't the U.S. branches do the same?

Too much like picking out donuts at the supermarket.

#4 like Obama saying he saved a job instead of creating one.

Back in the mid 90s I managed a Barnes & Noble in North Jersey. I had an elderly women come in on multiple occasions to buy remaindered thrillers and ship them to Marion Federal Penitentiary. (Apparently the prison rule was they had to be shipped by a business not an individual) I attempted to charge her for sales tax, and she insisted that the tax didn't apply since the items were being sent out of state. When I saw who she was mailing them to (John Gotti), I waived the tax and told my staff to do the same whenever she came in.

#6. I find it disheartening that people are opposed to providing incentives to perform, even when the act to be performed is uniformly praised and the results are uniformly admired. Anti-market bias runs deep.

Kudos to the author for his ability to change his point of view in light of the new evidence that the monetary awards were working.

I think it's a bad idea in general to pay (with cash, candy, or pizza parties) kids to do their school work. They should just do their school work. Because I said so, all that.

At the same time, many AP students have probably figured out the school gets $8,000 to $16,000 a year if they show up in class every day. Seems fairly fair to give the kid $100 to $500 for doing the work. Just wish it came out of the pocket of the districts.

People throw around the term "market failure" too easily, but if there is one in the world, it is the saturation of the belief that Dunkin Donuts coffee is good. I don't understand it. It's water, slightly colored. The universe makes no sense.

Bet you're ordering your coffee black. Order a "regular" at Dunkin and you will get coffee heavily milked and sugared, the way God meant it to be. Black coffee is for signalling. Nobody actually likes it that way.

I'll bet you also mix good whiskey with Coca-Cola.

There is no relation in my mind to drinking black and a preference for watered down coffee of the sort Dunkin serves. I'm a dark coffee with a bit of cream and sugar guy. If the coffee is right, the swirl of cream into a coffee into the perfect slightly lightened color is among modernity's greatest sights. If the coffee comes from Dunkin, a small splash of even skim turns the thing completely pale white because you are just coloring freaking water. It makes me so sad.

I take my coffee black because I'm drinking it for a purpose other than taste. But on a scale of plausibility, drinking coffee for taste is light years more plausible than drinking alcohol for taste. So tell it to all the wine tasting people et al.

I like my espresso black. Putting sugar in coffee is an abomination (though with the stuff that passes for coffee in the US, I can see why people do it...).

In Canada we have a donut/coffee chain called Tim Hortons. Most Canadians drink the coffee from there as if it were the Ambrosia of the Gods. The stuff is in reality complete Sh$t.

#4 "There's isn't much demand for self-control."

So I disagree ... I think it is more likely that there isn't much *supply* for self-control. It could be that unsophisticated buyers (those who want to have self-control but underestimate the difficulty or lack the willpower to carry through) are subsidizing sophisticated buyers (those who do have self-control). If that is the case then the sophisticated would be made worse off if more self-control is supplied in the market since they will lose the rents that they currently get from the unsophisticated. Simpler still we could be in a bad but stable equilibrium and market forces (and individual willpower) are not enough to move us to a better equilibrium. (See Gabaix and Laibson for more on these effects:

To give a real-world example (though a different form of sophistication): many people do not refinance their mortgage when it is advantageous for them to do so ... does that mean they do not really want more money? No all kinds of factors including something as simple as inattention could do it. Now, there is no reason that mortgages could not be structured as self-refinancing or something closer to that ideal. (It is actually a burden on lenders to model pre-payment risk when not everyone re-finances optimally.) So why don't such mortgages exist? Well one reason is that the lenders make money on the unsophisticated borrowers. Part of that goes to profits but part allows lenders to offer a better deal to sophisticated borrowers. So self-refinancing mortgages would raise the cost of mortgages to a lot of borrowers relative to the status quo ... why would the market offer that product? It wouldn't. But that does mean unsophisticated borrowers don't want more money.

Oh sure some people are lying (sometimes to themselves too) when they say they want to do, but it seems that the market is not as supportive as it could be either. Thankfully regulation is an option.

"Thankfully regulation is an option."

Go away please.

These are probably quibbles but:

1. "I think it is more likely that there isn’t much *supply* for self-control. It could be that unsophisticated buyers (those who want to have self-control but underestimate the difficulty or lack the willpower to carry through) are subsidizing sophisticated buyers (those who do have self-control)."

- The argument that those who lack self-control haven't the will-power necessary to purchase it reads as a circular argument or perhaps equivocation. What is will-power if it isn't self-control? Allowing the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment as evidence of early divergence in self-control, it seems more likely that those identified as "unsophisticated buyers" simply find themselves in a greater self-control deficit to begin with. Maybe It's just my priors speaking but I'd argue that people aren't demonstrating sophistication in this market but rational responses to the cost of increasing self-control from its current state to a given level.

2. If that is the case then the sophisticated would be made worse off if more self-control is supplied in the market since they will lose the rents that they currently get from the unsophisticated.

- Sorry if this is addressed in your link (which I didn't read), but is there any evidence that the rents extracted exceed the total utility gained from increased overall self-control, or even the utility gained (from positive externalities) to the previously "sophisticated" alone?

1. No it's not circular. If I have something, I don't go to the market and buy it. (The example here: if I have self-control then I do not demand a commitment device in the market to get self-control.) Plus some people think they have something that they do not (in this case self-control). This problem arises most frequently in decision making across time ... we don't always know our future self well and some people don't even recognize the disconnect. And it's that lack of sophistication about your true attributes, not lying about your true desires want that mucks up the market mechanism.

2. The linked paper develops the theory. I have seen applications mainly in financial choices but I have not seen research that does this particular horse race Caplan: they are not revealing their true type vs mine: it is not an equilibrium outcome to serve all types.

(Also the last sentence in my first comment was a bit of humor ... I do think self-control issues and the weak market response are an problem. I do not think assuming away the problem as Caplan does is a good way to go.)

I want to lose 20 lbs.
I want a piece of pie.

I can buy a piece of pie. Where do I go to buy the willpower not to eat the pie?

Willpower to lose 20 lbs isn't on the shelf, but pie is.

To claim that I don't really want to lose the weight if I eat the pie is false. That perspective is avoiding that fact that I want both the pie and the lost weight.

Willpower is recognizing that real life is a zero sum game.

I am agreeing with you NPW ... willpower (or a commitment device) is undersupplied and it does not mean there is a lack of demand for willpower. I was trying to explain why the market might not meet the demand for willpower ... markets are supposed to supply things to satisfy demands (if it's profitable to do so). An even more cynical phrasing is that people without willpower are a money pump and there is little market incentive to help them overcome that. I disagree with you last sentence but that's more philosophical than my training.

The marshmallow test has been revised, with some interesting results that probably apply here.

I am very, very good at self control when I absolutely know that the control will get me the result I want. When it is iffy (or if I can convince myself that it's iffy), I'm really horrible at it. Giving something up on even a probability of gain is not the same as giving something up on the certainty of it.

This applies to diets and cigarette smoking, even, things you would think are close to certainties. But they aren't. I have "dieted" before and not lost weight. I have "dieted" before and lost weight but not gained what I thought losing weight would gain me (e.g. good health, etc.). Many times when folks decide to quit smoking, it is after a health event. I have a neighbor who has a COPD and MS diagnosis, still smokes. Seems like a total lack of self control, have to admit I have a hard time understanding. But then I realize, if she had an iron clad guarantee that if she stopped smoking her MS and COPD would go away entirely and never return (even just the COPD, which is actually linked), she'd probably never smoke another cigarette again. But she doesn't. She has fairly strong assurances that if she quits her conditions won't deteriorate as quickly as they will if she continues to smoke. Much more tepid, and harder to quantify when making marshmallow decisions.

#1 Korean coffee culture is making its way to Fairfax. If I'm on the Western side of the county, and it's one of those rare times when I want something other than a plain ol cup of joe, then the best options are almost universally Korean-run coffee/sandwich/bakery shops.

#6 - the anti-market commies in the USSR were doing it for a long time. With the education "free", they would instead pay university and technical college students small stipends (just bare minimum, about 60% of minimum wage): none if one has any "C" on finals, full if only "A" and "B", and full+10% on top if all "A". For some students (like me), it was a powerful incentive to do well on courses that I considered pure rubbish.

It is common for some East Asian countries to do this too. Anti-market commies and anti-market anti-commies alike.

#5 Send criminals books so that the books can be hollowed out and have a nailfile placed inside with which they can escape?!! This old hag is falling for literally the Oldest Trick in the Book.

#5 - Local prison here only accepts books mailed directly from

I have been preparing to move so I wanted to unload some I am done with. No such luck. At first I was why not? But I see I am pretty naïve. I hadn't thought of lacing the pages with LSD or whatever.

They turned the local library into an activity center so they don't take books anymore. They used to, then they sold off what they didn't want at semi-annual book sales. Senior Center only takes magazines less than two months books. So what do people do with unwanted books nowadays?

What would you do with any unwanted thing?

You can sell them in lots on Ebay. Also, Goodwill takes them.

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