Sunday assorted links

1. How bad are things?  Arguably this post needs a broader sense of what makes a life valuable, still one of the more interesting blog posts of the last year.

2. Rubber’s reach.

3. “Local vicars have also supported plans for a bar at the crematorium, which opened in 1992 and is set in 23 acres of open countryside.

4. Used bookstores are making a big comeback.

5. In Austin, Gary Leff and I enjoyed Papalote Taco House, thanks for your earlier suggestions.  Pipian was best.

6. Affluent white people are the most likely to refuse vaccination for their children.

Comments

1. Woody Allen, right? I appreciate Allen for the same reason Cowen appreciates this blog post. Happiness is overrated.

E. Harding's New Year's resolution is to get the mental help he so clearly needs.

Sayeth the stalker.

#4: Strangely enough I've also seen a rise in public places where you can pick up books for free. I saw two of them in Gouda, one in Rotterdam and recently a big one opened at Utrecht Central Station. The quality of the books is not overwhelming, but it's certainly not all old rubbish. If I really needed something to read I could find something there. Link in Dutch: http://www.duic.nl/nieuws/hoog-catharijne-opent-boekspot-pak-gratis-en-voor-niks-een-boek-je-wordt-er-een-beter-mens-van/

I find that books are irrelevant in the Internet age, if I want one I pirate it from kickass,

arguably the conceit that we should find 'value' in lives of limitless misery is one of the most pernicious harms the Christian faith inflicted on the world. there is no nobility in suffering.

Google "Mother Teresa was a horrible person." I can't guarantee what you'll find, but I guarantee some of it will be compelling.

Compelling for degenerates.

there is no nobility in suffering.

No, there is no nobility of which you are capable, and you project that on to everyone else.

Considering that nobility is not an actual thing, but just a consensus opinion of the group, it's rather the other way around.

In some cultures suicide bombers are noble martyrs.

If by "nobility" you mean "feudal aristocracy" then you are quite right.

If you mean anything else by it, then you are just assuming your own conclusion.

Presumably he's referring to the second meaning: "Having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals:" http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/noble

In that case he must also be assuming some sort of cutlural or moral relativism, as he makes no actual argument that fine personal qualities are merely a consensous opinion of some group.

That went downhill quickly.

Jesus looked out over the masses and was moved. It is impossible to stress how revolutionary that was. Up to then, the Mediterranean world had viewed the poor as disgusting - and blamed them for it.

But hey, who cares? On the plus side, that idea the poor are somehow special is the basis of socialism. If they are embittered and poorly educated, it is a waste of time giving them the vote, right?

#1 How bad are things? Never better, IMHO, all things on earth considered. That's despite the NYTimes pictures of 2015.

I think the author of that post concedes this, but just wanted to remind everyone that despite the progress, things still suck for a lot of people.
And, perhaps more importantly, people who have it pretty well often don't understand the extent of the suckage, esp. when they look at how much the world has been improving over the last (forever).

"how much the world has been improving over the last (forever)." Clearly, forever = about 1760 - 1820.

#2: I like Charles C. Mann, and I thought his book 1491 was interesting, but he is really given to hyperbole.

"A single errant spore of South American leaf blight reaching Southeast Asia could bring the automobile age to a screeching halt."

So the takeaway from this article is that terrorists are wasting their time blowing stuff up and should be smuggling tree fungi instead? They could bring down Western civilization!

Shhh! Good thing the terrorists don't actually think like that. No sense encouraging them to either.

Anyway, Western civilization would be fine. They'd produce a short-term major shock - devastating to lots of people - and long-term increase in the depreciation rate of parts made with the best available alternative materials. On the other hand, that might just be the incentive someone needs to invest in some R&D to find a better alternative, or to splice the rubber genes into some other crop or single-celled organism.

Or maybe you should invest in that R&D right now, get your alternative cash crop ready to go, and then carry whole suitcases of spores on a trip all across Southeast Asia. Don't tell Monsanto!

No need to create a GMO rubber source. A natural source has already been found, and selective breeding has improved it. Tires have been made from it, and they're just as good as tires made from traditional rubber.

http://phys.org/news/2015-06-natural-rubber-dandelions.html

If that fungus takes off, the alternative can scale up and deploy quickly. The original article also downplayed the quality of synthetic rubber. True, it's inferior, but in many critical appllications that just means you have to replace the article more often. If the price of natural rubber goes up, shorter-lived synthetics can step in and they can scale up immediately because it's just chemistry.

Wow.

So rubber dandelions are far from comparable. The quality of their latex is substantially different from tree latex. Moreover, their yields suck. Latex dandelions have been tried before and even with modern selective breeding can't match the same modern selective breeding techniques applied to rubber trees. It is far more likely that rubber trees will have disease resistance bred in rather than dandelions replacing them.

Second, the article downplays the "quality" of synthetic rubber by noting that it can't fully replace natural rubber. This is unequivocally true. Natural rubber is used in ultra-large tires like those for trucking and aircraft because it has the best green *(unvulcanized) strength and the best resistance to crack propagation. Most oversize tires (aircraft, super-heavy duty truck) are almost entirely natural rubber for this reason. While in smaller tires E-SBR and S-SBR (emulsion and solution styrene butadiene rubber, respectively) can substitute for natural rubber, in larger tires it cannot. These grades of synthetic rubber provide many of the same shear resistance and load-bearing qualities while giving superior rolling resistance, quality and handling properties but have inferior cut resistance and crack propagation qualities.

Rubber boom?

http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=rubber&months=60

I suspect that a lot of the Thai plantations, where labor costs are high, will be abandoned. The same may happen in Laos, where the population is small and some plantations remote.

Northern Thailand was completed deforested decades ago. I noticed those bald hills when I arrived here in 1990. There may have been scrub land converted to rubber in Thailand, but not primary rain forest.

That is not the case, sadly in Myanmar and Laos. But current rubber prices should halt all new development and forests will be cut down to plant something else (or perhaps I should say that something else will be planted after the forests are cut down for timber).

I brought this article to TC's attention, and what was surprising to me is that natural rubber is still over 40% of the total rubber production in the world. It is used for high-performance situations, but surprisingly most of the natural rubber ends up in tyres. I would have thought perhaps surgeon's gloves and it would be 1% of the total, not over 40%. Lern something new everyday.

@myself- if you've read Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998), a best-selling popular history book by Adam Hochschild, you'd know about the importance of natural rubber in colonizing the Congo. I had assumed those days of natural rubber were past, but they are not.

Folks I wasn't being serious. Hence "hyperbole."

Why do you assume "Charles Mann", the author of the National Geo magazine article, is the same as "Charles C. Mann"? Do you also think the Washington Post economics reporter Robert J. Samuelson is the brother of Paul Samuelson the Nobelian?

Because the author bio of the NG article says they are the same guy.

Gary Leff the travel blogger?

Also known as Air Genius Gary Leff, in these quarters at least...

No disagreement there. I didn't know you enjoyed the credit card points game, but I'm not surprised.

#4. That wouldn't be surprising given the dramatic increase in ebook prices. I'd guess that used book sales on Amazon and other Web sites are up as well. How long before publishers figure out they'd be a lot better off pricing ebooks low enough to match the shipped cost of used books (for which they get no revenue)?

Another hypothesis might be that some good books are not reissued often enough. I had to buy books by Dino Buzzati and Julien Gracq secondhand because they are not stocked by standard bookstores. Still these writers are on the "best 100" lists. - I agree that I buy fewer ebooks, now that prices are higher than a new paperback! - I wonder how long it will take before audiobooks (Audible) will increase in price. Strangely enough these audiobooks are cheaper than paperbacks. - Anyone know a good research article about this?

6. What do you wanna bet that in regions with higher income, higher levels of education, and predominantly white populations, the general acceptance of the validity of AGW is also high?

Note that the majority view is correct in both cases. In one case you side with the mistaken minority, and in one you do not.

Those who believe in AGW and immunization win, and that is most of us.

I really don't think believing or not believing in AGW makes you a winner.

If its going to be catastrophic, none of our puny attempts to mitigate will matter, as the CO2 that matters was dumped into the air long ago. (IMHO)

If its not, which is the most likely scenario, then it doesn't matter. Small amount of heat will make people slowly, over decades move around. Oooh scary. We had people move from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt before...now they can move back.

I would say winning AGW argument would mean Yucca Mountain was built in 2009, nuke plants being built at rapid pace to power the now mandated electric cars. That would put an actual dent in CO2.

In both those examples, the minority manage to be spoilers. Odd to blame the sensible and not the insensible on that.

If the effect is "no biggie" then why call them spoilers?

In fact, their "ignorance" just saved you a lot of money, time, and effort.

And if we really need massive change, I'm sorry but I do not lay the blame on "deniers" but on our leaders who chose not to lead by example, who chose not to fund Yucca Mountain with stimulus, who chose not to prioritize nuclear power, etc.

Just watch, as the guy who signed the Paris deal retires next year and then flies constantly on a private jet to give speeches for gobs of money. Ask yourself if that is what you would do if you truly believed the planet were at catastrophic risk. Its not a crisis, until they act like it is one.

Web meetings/conferences are over-rated and have little impact. To meet people who make decisions, you actually have to get in a plane and fly somewhere.

It's easy to say that an American can just move somewhere else in America. But what about people who live in other countries where global warming will have a significant impact? Will the countries/people primarily responsible for climate change open their doors to these people who did little or nothing to cause it?

Entirely false.

Those with neighbors who believe in vaccines win, even if they personally do not.

Your chances of winning or losing are not at all affected by your beliefs in AGW.

Is someone paying for obtuse comments?

Your check is in the mail.

I do wonder what the question: 'do you believe in AGW' is supposed to mean.

I know it is a litmus test. I am simply supposed to proudly proclaim : 'I Believe!!' But, I do wonder is there is anything deeper. I doubt it.

I always ask : 'what do you mean by that' to which I either get blank looks or people saying 'ah you are team red'.

The greenhouse effect is so basic that only refusing to believe it becomes the test.

Perhaps in 2016 post-denialists will get that and move on to "we all believe in AGW, we just don't care"

Gochujang: When I drop an object that will face minimal air resistance it will accelerate at a rate of approximately -9.81 meters per second squared. When CO2 concentration increases 1 ppm how much does global air temperature increase?

So who 'believes' in awg, the person who travels by air frequently or the guy who works in fracking that has been instrumental in allowing the coal electricity generation to be replaced ?

Believe is pure moral preening, akin to self righteous religious people.

Just like the childless who look down on the uneducated who don't believe in evolution but have large families.

That you think skeptics (deniers, heretics!) don't acknowledge the greenhouse effect or the fact that climate changes says everything about your position on this subject.

You have a religious faith in a simplistic explanation of a complex system. Your faith has zero predictive quality, depends on a few simple tenets, demands financial absolution for sins, defers to centralised authority and tolerates no doubts or doubters.

Here's a cause for doubt. Why does the RSS satellite temperature measurement show no warming for almost 20 years, and run cooler than land-based stations (with heavily adjusted data)?

The theory is that warming - and sea level - should have accelerated in the last two decades and that the satellite measurements of the atmosphere would outpace the land temperatures. Antarctica was also predicted to lose ice, not set records for extent.

The IPCC showed some doubt in its last policy report by reducing its assessment of temperature sensitivity to CO2.

But for believers the wailing and gnashing of teeth continues. Waiting for Leonard DiCaprio's lead maybe.

> The greenhouse effect is so basic that only refusing to believe it becomes the test.

I don't know why I am engaging, but here goes: are you saying that when you pose the question "do you believe in AWG" you are actually asking "do you believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas?" That's all that you are asking? Really?

Oh, and for your 2nd part, which is horrible nonsense, why would we care?

Chip - anyone who latches on to 1998 as the point of reference has no business discussing climate change. 1998 was an El Nino year, and so temperatures were warmer.

Similarly, in 10 years time, you will have people pointing to 2015/16 (El Nino year) saying "look there's been a hiatus for 10 years, therefore AGW is bunk".

Climate involves systems will trillions of moving parts, and variability is high for lots of reasons that are imperfectly understood. Moreover, the record is not complete. You don't deny modern chemistry for the failure to predict which specific molecules will be H, H20 and OH- at a given instant - rather, you acknowledge that there is a lot of statistical variability and look at the big picture.

The big picture is warming. The appropriate measure is longer term averages, for which reason I direct you to the 5-year moving average produced by NASA: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/.

The Republicans are the only significant political entity on the planet which continues to deny AGW. The longer the collective heads are stuck in the sand, the more decades others will feel righteous in mocking them. Trusting oil-funded lobbyists over peer-review science? And wonder why people think the American right is anti-science?

Alain - for reasons to care ... if you actually care there is plenty of information available on Google. I'm not going to lecture you.

Who is playing cognitive dissonance as a strategy? Believe the greenhouse effect and disbelieve AGW? That is the game?

Yes, as well as vague, unspecified, suggestions that GE/AGW can be true but "false" at the same time.

1998 was an El Nino year, and so temperatures were warmer.

number of times I will hear a catastrophic AGW proponent talk about 2015 being the warmest year ever? (lots)

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. We are putting more of it into the atmosphere.

It's only a little more complicated than 2+2. The question is not IF but HOW MUCH.

Each and every month of 2015 was the hottest on record.

There were several, in fact considerably more than several, months during the Cretaceous Period that were hotter than any month in 2015. And that's when my AC decided to take a dump.

"on record"

How well does corn or wheat grow at temperatures seen in the Cretaceous Period? How much energy would we "need" for air conditioning at those temperatures?

Careful Nate, when you discuss the specifics you'll inevitably come to a conclusion which would make other believers label you denier, apostate, heretic. Very few people, and no one worth listening to, deny that co2 is a greenhouse gas. People do dinner however that a greenhouse gas which increases temperature logarithmically will result in a temperature increase that is exponential. So back to your 2+2, 2+2 says most of the damage from co2 has already been done and let's pump is much into the atmosphere as we can because it doesn't matter at all. Anything more complicated than that, and you are in tenuous feedback mechanism zone, and 2 + 2 no longer applies, and the complicated models have all failed and all in the direction of over prediction.

Thomas - the models will get better. It's probably the most complicated thing ever undertaken by science, the information is highly incomplete, and it's one of the youngest areas of scientific investigation around. Younger than genetics, even.

But the least hiccup along the way, and the denialists will claim it as counter-evidence. Skepticism is healthy, but when you're 99% sure, it's time to buy some insurance by taking action.

What's the worst case scenario of a carbon tax? Not that bad .. perhaps equivalent to forgoing a year of GDP growth. What's the best case scenario of a carbon tax? Perhaps very good by reducing wasteful use of energy and reducing taxes on innovation and effort.

Ah, and how many lives will we lose if we lose one year's GDP growth?

I believe current estimates are that moderate warming is a net benefit. We also can expect another ice age pretty soon, geologically. So any reduced temperature may be a further negative.

The fact that models will get better is no help. If the better model is a slow warming trend I suppose you will claim that as a success.

Acknowledge that more co2 means more heat, at the same time deny.

Welcome to the denialist end-game.

"The models will get better"

But the results are pre-ordained, n'est pas? We already know, according to you, that the models will verify your opinion.

Chuck - the current models are the best information we have, and the future models will be the best information we have then. It would be fantastic to find that algae in the ocean were able to rapidly eat up all the extra C02, but probably there isn't enough nutrients in the ocean to have a sufficiently large effect.

#1 I think "Scott" should consider another theory: he, as a psychiatrist, creates unhappiness, or at least turns it into a chronic condition. Hello, this was his Christmas Eve post!

I am an oddball and, not surprisingly there are a few in my family tree, but thanks to a psychiatrist like Scott, my oddball has a medical name ... another psychiatrist backed it up and told me firmly that I have the "worst kind" of my condition. It was important for me to accept my limits and understand how fragile / unpredictable life can be. Psychiatrists are helpful, but their medicalization of the crap that life serves (and always has served up) has downsides too. And his script underscores the one-sidedness of his view of "unhappy" people. Where is the balance, the joys that life serves up with the crap?

It was an interesting post but I don't think it remotely matched his takeaway to do something to make unhappy people better.

I saw a psychologist briefly as a kid, and he was insistent that I make an instance of molestation a huge passion in life. Overcoming it, that is! The fact that I'd put it behind me, didn't hate the molester (a family member), didn't seem to resonate with him much. Sometimes no, talking about it won't make it better.

Sounds like your uncle was better looking than mine.

The fact that I’d put it behind me, didn’t hate the molester (a family member), didn’t seem to resonate with him much.

Bad for business.

#2 Rubber

There is a revolution going on in the rubber industry that is driven by nanotech. Nano polymer composites are moving elastomers into high temperature harsh environments that carbon black natural rubber compounders could only dream of. High load nano filler elastomers can move rubber up the hardness scale into areas previously reserved for thermo-set polymers (plastics), and plastics up to challenge metals. High tech rubber coatings are now found in armour and medical devices that would blow your mind (phase transition armour particularly).

Interesting article, but it misses the exciting news in "rubber" if you ask me.

But that has very little to do with current rubber markets. Nano-whiz-bang whatever is likely to compete in specialty or engineering markets, not replace styrene butadiene latex.

I think #1 was sobering.

We are running around entering lotteries for Yeezys, not the biggest problem we could have.

Reading Thomas Ligotti interviews feels a lot like the article from #1: http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=8726 - " I heard the word “septic” before a mask was placed over my face and I lost consciousness, which wasn’t really consciousness by that time—it was just beeps and boops from something that didn’t know or care what it was or what would become of it, that no longer wanted anything, not even relief from the pain that by then had wholly consumed it." - "... an incredible sense of alienation I felt following my surgeries, the sense of a reality that could not be denied, a vivid reminder of my already pessimistic view of life, and even an expansion of that view due to my experience of literally unbearable physical pain. I had known long-term physical pain before, but this was different somehow. Essentially, though, that pain ultimately made me feel more myself than ever, both emotionally and cognitively. I couldn’t look away any longer from what I once named “the nightmare of the organism,” despite my elevated mood. "

Agreed. One branch of my extended family falls clearly into the miserable category. Aside from discomfort while visiting, I notice that NEARLY ALL of them have some tale of woe like the ones illustrated, while other sub-groups I associate with do not.

Assortive mating, indeed, extending even to circles of friendship.

#1. I'm interested in the foundations (economic or otherwise) of "the broader sense of what makes life worth living." I wouldn't say that any of the patients (or "types") described have fates worse than death but, still, their conditions seem bleak. I found the part calculating the one in a quintillion odds very eye-opening. I am thankful to be able to walk around in my little happiness bubble and would like to see that bubble expand.

My sense is that the US is caught in a mix of two social equilibria. On the one hand you have more traditional (but still modern) societies with the family at the root of everything, like the Asian tigers. On the other hand you have extreme individualism enabled by the full support of the state, like the Nordic states. The latter is very explicit about removing individual dependence on the family, which solves most of the economic problems described in those anecdotes (leaving aside the economic sustainability of the model). The former is typically very explicit about the lack of state welfare services being the product of the widely accepted responsibility of families to take care of their own (this solves most of the problems described in those anecdotes with a few particularly terrible cases falling through the cracks - see the stooped elderly people collecting cardboard for recycling on the streets of Singapore). The US seems to have lost the sense of familial responsibility towards those who need support, but has not yet established a sufficient safety net to provide for the welfare of those who are abandoned by their families (or have no family).

#1

A psychiatrist living in Berkeley expresses puzzlement at not knowing any Christian fundamentalists, despite statistics indicating that many of them live in the United States. From this profound paradox he extrapolates claims about happiness in the modern world . .

Am I alone in finding SA overrated?

"According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists."

I remember reading that statistic, and wondering: where the hell do all those people live? Then, I moved to Indiana.

> I remember reading that statistic, and wondering: where the hell do all those people live? Then, I moved to Indiana.

We live in the big coastal cities too, we just keep quiet about it because we have families to support.

That's a very tendentious summary of the contents of the article.

You are not alone. I tried and tried after various bloggers kept praising him, but could not find SA interesting at all.

I have more money than I can ever spend in this lifetime. I live on the water, in a private neighborhood where people who own jacked pickup trucks, with gun racks, loud pipes and "Shit Happens" bumper stickers, don't live. My wife and daughters are doing very well, I'm in 'ripped' physical shape, take no meds of any kind, and I'm unhappy as hell most of the time. Although I like where I live, I now hate the time period in which I live.

No, I wasn't born unhappy. In the first 20 years of my life, there were no epigenetic issues eating my guts out. That's because I grew up in an era of unlocked front doors, unlocked car doors, fearless kids playing out in the street until dusk, who walked miles to town in the dark and thought nothing of it. Into my teens, I felt that even if I failed at a job, there was still an infinite number of jobs out there in a world that would afford me unlimited second chances. That America pretty much started disappearing after the Vietnam war.

Today's America is tribal. Neighbors are fearful. Over 60% of my fellow Americans are nearly broke, and over 70% of them are living from paycheck to paycheck. Corporate oligarchs have sucked the economic life out Main Street America, to the point where the pay for putting on a uniform to commit mass murder, in Non-Christian lands, appeals to over 1.4 million of my countrymen. And then there are Donald Trump's Americans (who evolved from G.W. Bush's Americans who evolved from Ronnie Ray-gun's Americans), the NSA, IRS, DHS, NDAA, M-I-C, FBI, CIA, paramilitary police, psychotropic drugs for all, police officers in schools, apocalyptic-evangelicals, Ayn Randian lawyers, doctors, accountants and politicians, as 25% of America's kids are on food stamps,. So Happy New Year, y'all.

I think I met you at the Marina across from Soldier Field in Chicago. You were the older white gentleman, quite obviously Jewish, getting off your yacht. You struck me because of your "Bernie" hat.

Wow, so you were the rotund guy wearing the thick silver chain, inside that unbuttoned, tent-like polyester Hawaiian shirt, who had set up his table on the sidewalk, hawking his Barry Manilow records, CDs and memorabilia collection. Didn't look like you were selling enough to keep yourself in diet cokes and pork rinds. Times are tough, I'm telling ya.

I’m unhappy as hell most of the time.

Perhaps this is a result of your own ideology and attitudes, not the influence of the external factors you describe.

You aren't a victim, stop letting others convince you you're powerless. If you're a "rich black" (as you self-describe), then the people who are convincing you everything is horrible in society aren't helping you. Life is still as hopeful as it ever was when you were younger, people are overall wealthier in the world, there is plenty of opportunity remaining in the Unites States and neighborhoods still exist where things are left unlocked... just not in your neighborhood, so maybe the problem is your new neighborhood.

My neighborhood's unlocked. It's just remote and not much of a neighborhood.

"Life is still as hopeful as it ever was when you were younger"

I want what you've been smoking, but stone cold sober, I've got to agree with Tyler, when he says that 80% of Americans are just going to have to learn to live with less wealth, and find happiness in simple pleasures. That won't be an easy adjustment in the land of, "you are what you have".

"80% of Americans are just going to have to learn to live with less wealth"
Some big counter-examples:
Entertainment options, i.e. computer games, TV channels, music, etc... are massively more available for much cheaper than ever
20 years ago, no one had access to the wealth of information virtually everyone has at their fingertips.
Size and quality of housing for the same cost

Even if you can try and show cash wealth isn't increasing as quickly, non-cash wealth made major increases over the last few decades. Not everything is measured in the CPI or in cash compensation.

"Entertainment options, i.e. computer games, TV channels, music, etc -"

Bread and circuses.

"Size and quality of housing for the same cost"

Not quite. The new 3 bedroom/1 bath, our not so small family grew up in, cost my father $18,000. That same house sold two years ago for $564,000. I paid $228 a year for tuition at the University I went to. Today, tuition at that same university costs $30,696. Fixing a broken leg can cost $7,500, and a three day hospital stay can run $30,000. A new Ford F-150 can set you back $50,000, but back in 1956, that Ford truck cost $1,580. Sounds a bit like hyperinflation. Americans have declining wealth, because good food, water, transportation, healthcare and higher education costs have outstripped their resources. .Meanwhile, their wages have gone nowhere, and their jobs will continue to vanish through outsourcing, automation and through an undocumented workforce. Thank goodness for those "entertainment options".

Rich, it sounds like you have yet to acquire the ability to like what is available. While at the Polish buffet, have more peirogies, don't focus on the lack of fresh greens.

What Thomas put up as "entertainment options" are much deeper - all of the knowledge contained in that $38k/yr university degree can be had for free. Well, $60/mo for a broadband connection plus $300 - $3000 for a chromebook/laptop.

Also, compare the '56 F150 to today's F150. No seatbelts, probably no radio, giant-displacement V8 ... to ABS, airbags, gps/satellite radio, etc. Compare the purchase of the '56 F150 (a utility used for personal transportation and work) to a smartphone with the Uber app (personal transportation) and a macbook (work).

You may not like the second scenario, but that sounds more like personal preference, and not secular decline.

The price of land is not the same as the price of a house

F-150 starts at $25k, not $50k, and is significantly better than any 1956 version. Median price for a 3 bed 1 bath is about $120k in America. You must be older than dirt, because the university I went to, that costs $32k a year, costed me $9k thirty years ago.

Seems you should relate more to your own successes instead of the bullshit you seem to read online somewhere. You'll be happier.

It used to be possible to buy a house and a car with an average job out of high school.

No longer, even with a BA.

It certainly is still possible. Just not in the mission or fifth avenue. Cry me a river.

I don't get how you can meaningfully address "How bad are things?" without focusing on "compared to what?" I get that you can say "but people are still sad" but isn't that holding the bar a wee bit out of reach? The global poverty story and the decline in violent crime in developed nations are two stories people simply do not have in their heads. Dramatic, life altering global changes with billions of people better off. I mean, that's kinda okay, right?

He did focus on "compared to what". The "what" is "how you think they are".

Thanks for sharing #6. It's important to raise awareness about the increasing prevalence of antivaxxers. There's also indications of a strong partisan correlation with the wealth factor. It's specifically rich *democrats* who are likely to be antivaxxers. I looked at the same data set a few months back and wrote up some findings here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2015/04/california_anti_vaccine_movement_politics_wealth_bob_sears_and_robert_f.htm

#1 is very much related to this recent post of TC.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/12/death-trends.html

#3: A funeral home in Chicago recently made local news for getting a liquor license.

Great article.

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