Thursday assorted links


1. Massive denial.

Denial of what? Of the political-economics of the Republican Party through Sarah Palin to the ultimate expression in presidential nominee Donald Trump?

Note how Republicans advocate default by the powerful while denying the right to default to the weak and powerless. Rich and having problem living lavishly and paying what you owe? We offer you bankruptcy!

A student in a low income job unable to pay student debt, or with heavy mortgage debt from consolidating debt as the rich do? Sorry, you must sacrifice everything to pay the fees and penalties on the debt first and only after you have paid multiples of your debt will you be allowed to reduce your debt, dollar for every two to three dollars, no restructuring or debt relief allowed.

If that's what it means to be conservative, well, never defaulting when rich and powerful but unable to pay bills but instead sacrificing consumption must be the criteria for being leftist and socialist.

> Note how Republicans advocate default by the powerful while denying the right to default to the weak and powerless.

From where shall I note this? Citation needed.

Yes. It seems to me the whole point of TARP was to *prevent* banks from defaulting....

Last I checked bankruptcy was available to all citizens. I've even known people, of little wealth or income, who have been through it.

"1. Massive denial."

I don't think so. I think this nails it:

"It posits that close associates of the administration are major holders of the country’s bonds and that the government fears it’d lose their much-needed support if the payments stopped coming in. "

And (credit to 8 below) China.

Yep. Most likely explanation.

A few months ago the Economist suggested it was because PDVSA owns government debt. If the government defaults, the oil company too. The only problem is the oil company has assets in the US. Thus, the oil company would be forced to sell cash making assets.

3. How does this ranking correlate with reproduction rates?

Exactly. For example, Portugal, Spain and Hungary are, respectively, 9th, 10th and 11th bottom in fertility rates by country in the whole world.

Do people pamper parents because there are so few in these countries?

I'm from Portugal, btw.

Perhaps people vary in their proclivity to parenting, and in countries where the pressures are anti-parenting, only those who really want to have children do it?


A theory:

1. Those less inclined to be parents before having children are gennerally less happy once they have chidren.
2. Those less inclined to be parents before having children will not have them, unless pressured by the expectations of those around them.
3 There is a lower expectation to have children in certain countries (with low reproduction rates) so those less inclined to be parents before having children end up not having children.
4. In the USA, there is greater pressure to have children so some fo the people less inclined to be parents before having children end up having children and are gennerally less happy once they have chidren.

Therefore, it is not necessarily that there are pleaces where parents cannot enjoy being parents as much as in other places, but many parents that should not be having children end up having them in certain places due to social pressure.

Because there seems to be correlation between low birth rate and government benefit for parents, and a correlation between low birth rate and enjoyment for being a parent, I am not sure there is causation between benefits and enjjoyment of being a parent.

Therefore, if this is correct, we should reduce pressure on people to become parents because it just makes unhappy parents (I also think the USA should give benefits to parents, just because -on the margin- it may still make a possitive difference overall)

1. If Venezuela defaults, they spurn the one country that matters and still supports the regime: China.

' And there may be some relatively achievable solutions for improving the happiness of American parents – like subsidizing childcare, or expanding access to paid vacation and sick leave.'

Which is good. But I note that the article also had this:
'In contrast, countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland and France have extensive social safety nets and supportive family policies, Glass says. Russia and Hungary continue to maintain certain Soviet-era policies that take care of families. In Portugal and Spain, extended family networks tend to help take care of kids.'

So there are multiple ways to increase parental happiness, including fostering cultures of extended family networks. That might paradoxically include making divorce harder, and increasing the birthrate (increase number of aunts, uncles, and cousins) and limiting social security to encourage extended families to live together.

See what I just did?

"People are happier when their chosen activities are subsidized more!"

Yeah, color me skeptical. It's not even clear that that list in in anything like order of subsidy or order of ease of combining paid work with family obligations. The US is actually pretty good at that...


I'm skeptical of the original article. While I think you raise a good point (Mo money, mo happiness without an upper limit. That's fairly well established.), it's not at all clear to me that the happiness ranking occurs in the same order you'd rank subsidies.

It very clearly does not occur in the same order as ease of combining work with family obligations. The US, for example, is generally renowned in that respect. Germany, half way up the chart is considered particularly bad at it. I'm not sure where Portugal lands, but their poor economic performance suggests it can't be that great. To combine work and family you need to be able to get a job...

"The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations.”

The two policies that explained the most variation in happiness within a country were the cost of care for the average 2-year-old as a percent of wages, and the total number of paid sick and vacation days mandated by law."

You'd have to read the study to evaluate those conclusions I think. I don't know how to evaluate your assertions about balancing because I have no idea what criteria you base that on.


So, really, really quickly, their confidence in the econometrics is not justified. You shouldn't pull a few coefficients out of a regression and look at their statistical significance in a vacuum. In particular, the word collinearity doesn't appear in the paper. They don't really have thousands of data points, they have 22 data points that they count very heavily. If their policy points were just random noise, I'd still expect a lot of significant coefficients. Omitted variable bias is also a substantial concern.

This is based on five minutes review while I wait for dinner - it's possible I've missed something. Just read a bit of the paper. It's dripping with agenda and it doesn't match well other summaries I've read of the subject.

Reputationally, the US is a particularly easy place for women to leave the workforce, have kids, and then go back. Lots of people do it with great success. Many of my coworkers do it. Much of Europe is not like that. There are cultural issues that run the opposite direction of the social support. It's all well and good to say a woman can take a year off, but if she'll never get her career trajectory back when she returns to the workforce it won't help much.

"So there are multiple ways to increase parental happiness, including fostering cultures of extended family networks."
Yeah, one of them is keeping or introducing Soviet-era policies, another one is "having extensive social safety nets and supportive family policies" and the third one is having the state to plan family size and regulating social interations to promote a specific king of "culture". If it were about soda glasses sizes, we would already be seeing people rending their garments.

I've been fortunate enough to have both an employer with generous parental leave and an extended family network to help us with the kids (both of which are putatively impossible for Americans). Between the two, the family network has been about 100x more important. A couple of weeks of employment leave would be an exceedingly poor replacement for a tight-knit and helpful family group.

A couple of weeks of employment leave is generous? In many European countries it's at least two months and often more.

Of course having extended family around is better all around, but how does that help countries with high labor mobility? My nearest family member is 800 miles away. My parents would be twice that distance if they were still alive.

Neither one is "generous", nobody is giving anything away for free. Urso's salary was negotiated with the understanding of a set # of weeks for leave and those in Europe are negotiated similarly but with longer leave which causes them (and they do) to get paid less. Personally I prefer the U.S. way of doing it.

That was an understatement on my part; it was actually 12 weeks' worth. So generous even by Euro standards. "how does that help countries with high labor mobility? My nearest family member is 800 miles away." It doesn't, but it does suggest that policies favoring high labor mobility are, to an extent, anti-family. (Life is full of tradeoffs).

What public policies do we have in place that favor mobility? There's a tax break for people who move more than 50 miles for a job, and a tax exemption is your employer pays for your move. Other than that I can't think of anything obvious.
A lot of economists have suggested that one of our problems in the labor market is a growing lack of mobility, so that people strand themselves in places where jobs (let alone, well-paying jobs) are few and hard to get.

Think broader. America is *huge*, both in area and in population, and there are almost no barriers from moving anywhere in the country, at any time. Same language, same culture (more or less). Your HS diploma from Oklahoma can get you into college in Ohio, your college diploma from South Dakota qualifies you to work as an engineer in New Mexico. And there are almost no cultural barriers to movement, it's even encouraged. All these things we kind of take for granted, but America has a unique combination of the legal right to move over a truly humongous area, combined with very easy cultural barriers to movement. Almost all other entities of this size have either some degree of legal restriction (think China) or cultural difficulty in moving (think Polish plumbers moving to London).

And yes I'm sure economists would like to see even more movement, because constant labor movement is good for increasing GDP. But the whole point of this discussion is that there are non-economic factors to consider as well.

Social Security is pro-natalist: it frees up family resources that would otherwise be used for eldercare. If we got rid of SS, the birth rate would collapse due to people being burdened with care for parents and grandparents and also squirreling away as much money as they could for their own old age.

3. Interesting, but I'll stick with revealed preference.

Happiness research on parenting casts more doubt on happiness research than on parenting.

My guess is we're not measuring the right thing. Parenting is indisputably harder than not parenting, but so are many things we think we enjoy such as playing sports or video games, or having careers.

I just read that there are an estimated 80-100 people living in the bushes of a local park. We put a harsh filter on 20-somethings to succeed in this country. Is it so hard to believe that young parents feel it? We've made the US into an Ayn Rand morality play. Be good and courageous and you get the $4M house. Be flawed and live in the park.

Look at the graph in that article. The Portuguese unemployment rate is 13.0%. The US unemployment rate is 5.5% Tell me again which country has the harsh filter on success?

I think you need to tell me the population of Portuguese parks, to compare apples to apples.

You are not arguing in good faith. This is a complete red herring - the park population has nothing to do with subsidies for daycare. Look at Canada, which has a much higher per capita homelessness rate than the US despite considerably more generous social services and a climate that sucks for the homeless.

A smart guy should not respond with a contradiction. At first it is a red herring, and then you get it.

You understand that the nature and access to housing WOULD shape both homelessness and the safety of starter families. That's why you offer Canada as your example.

I'll counter with "raising children in Sweden"

"You understand that the nature and access to housing WOULD shape both homelessness and the safety of starter families. That’s why you offer Canada as your example."

I understand that you are arguing it does. That is why the counterexample of Canada is so powerful.

Whatever; I'm being trolled here. I write this response so others can see it and know to avoid anon.

Here is a nice chart, which includes the percentage receiving reduced rent or free apartments by European country:,_2014_(%25_of_population)_YB16.png

In comparison

"The households that receive assistance comprise 9.8 million people, or roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population"

So I would say we look low, compared to the Eurozone average of 11-12%

When you lose an argument pound the table?

A little too obvious, I think.

Yes you've cracked the code; American parents are unhappy because they're all living in bushes.

California as an Ayn Rand morality play? What would socialists do if there weren't capitalists to blame for their stupidity?

Blame capitalists, duh.

Get angry at me, folks. That will make the lives of the homeless, and struggling young families, so much better.

Well here's a direct quote from the piece: " People who have kids in the United States and in many countries around the world report being less happy than people who don’t have kids. Being a parent gives people a sense of purpose and meaning, as well as lifelong social connections." To these researchers "happiness" apparently means something other than "having a sense of purpose and meaning as well as lifelong social connections" - in which case it's not clear to me that happiness, so defined, is a worthwhile goal.

"On average, an American parent reports being 12 percent unhappier than a non-parent in America – the biggest gap in the 22 countries the researchers looked at, followed distantly by Ireland. In 12 other countries, non-parents also described themselves as happier than parents."
Maybe the parents doing the reporting think "happiness apparently means something other than 'having a sense of purpose and meaning as well as lifelong social connections'. Moreover, by your definition, any prison houses thousands of happy people. Let's not mention all guys in Auschwitz who "had a sense of purpose and meaning " (a lot of Nazis, devoted Jews, commited Communists, faithful Christians, ...). Maybe it's intellectualy useful to understand that happiness (even if it is not the highest and greatest human goal, even it is expendable) is not exactly the same as eating all your vegetables and having a sense of purpose.

Oh you're right I hadn't considered the Auschwitz angle. That makes sense.

You didn't consider the general idea, it seems. You are basically saying happiness is "sense of purpose" + social interaction. Auschwitz is just the most radical example of it being a stupid idea. Say happiness is not a worthy goal if you want (it is not the most important thing, sure), but don't play with words.
PS: How many million people (Germany, Soviet Union, Pinochet's jails, Cuban dungeons, etc.) does it take before you decide to consider an angle

If you believe Victor Frankl your only hope of surviving Auschwitz (and it was still scant) was to have a sense of meaning.

Yes, there are two measures here, the research has been done before. One measure is something like what you get when you ask people at random times: "how do you feel right now" (parents are more likely to respond "frustrated", "dead tired" etc. - i.e. not very happy). The other measure is related to the question: "how do you see your life as a whole". Here, parents do better than non-parents, as far as I can remember.

I think Venezuela won't default because those bonds are how the heads of government are funneling money into their private accounts.

See: Maria Gabriela Chavez and Alejandro Andrade

6. Interesting idea but I think the should market the device more than the process. The modularity is a cool idea, especially if they maintain up-to-date module options.

1 is such obvious bad faith that it tells more about Tyler than Venezuela.

2. Nooo. :(

He is important on CS circles.

Man the SWPL crowd is absolutely in love with Marie Kondo. To me she sounds like a crippling neurotic: "She says that to fold a shirt the way everyone folds a shirt (a floppy rectangle) instead of the way she thinks you should (a tight mass of dignified envelope-shaped fabric so tensile that it could stand upright) is to deprive that shirt of the dignity it requires to continue its work." But "crippling neuroses" is right up their alley.

That being said she's more than welcome to come over to my house and throw away about 800 pieces of plastic crap that I didn't buy but somehow have made their way into my kids' possession.

I'm interested in the article about the "estimated 80-100 people living in the bushes of a local park". Googling that term gives nothing of substance.

There were an estimated 300 homeless people living along Coyote Creek in San Jose before the city cleared them out. That's not a park, but it is public land.

#3 yay for Portugal.

3. From the article: “The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations.”

Entirely? One sentence above they mentioned that extended family in Portugal and Spain is what takes a lot of stress off of parents. Are they referring to the social policies that lead to high unemployment in Portugal that allow these families to have to much idle time to watch everyone else's children? Only being half-cheeky here...that's such a strong sentence quoted above and they directly contradict themselves with their own words.

Being unemployed doesn't necessarily mean idleness, whatever that is. In fact, many unemployed spend more time hustling than the employed do working. It's curious that being bound to a job should be considered "normal".

I don't know about overseas but data on US employment doesn't exclude those who freelance or do whatever on their own. They ask how many hours you work so they can separate full-time and part-time workers...why would people "hustling" for "more time" than people with regular jobs report themselves as unemployed during a census/survey? There's probably some incentive to say you are unemployed if you are doing a lot of work under the table with cash to avoid taxation or rescinding of benefits.

That being said my main point wasn't about unemployment, it was about the study saying that social programs cause parental happiness/unhappiness ENTIRELY. No mention of familial bonds or community outreach being any part of it.

People working under the table (often while collecting benefits) are not going to admit to working. I've long wondered to what extent our stats are skewed higher than they should be by off-the-books employment.

Would like the see how the parental happiness correlates with birth rate. The countries studied are all fairly low birth rate countries, but I do not think the happier parents are having more kids. Does having on average 1 kid increase happiness more than having 2 kids?

I think, from memory, that the effect is tiny but roughly linear.

It's also quite different for married versus single parents (married make out much better) and for parents of older kids versus younger kids (older kids -> more happiness). I think the effect actually changes sign with those categorical changes. So it's possible we're just observing demographic differences.

Bryan Caplan (everybody loves him, right?) is actually a good source on this matter.

Low birth rate may mean most of parents were willing to become parents. In other countries a significant fraction of parents became parents for "accident " or by violence.

"In other countries a significant fraction of parents became parents for “accident ” or by violence."

Citation needed.

In any case it's citations. It's 2016 do your homework online.

It's the OECD countries, thus 16 yo parents are not seen as ideal. Then look at teenage pregnancy rates statistics. Teenage pregnancy is correlated to stressful and potentially unhappy experiences (on average). The US, compared to other OECD countries has a higher teenage pregnancy rate. Reading the NYT article, it's quite interesting that teenage pregnancies are unmentioned.

There is no significant correlation with total factor fertility (I checked).

"3. In which countries does being a parent most and least contribute to happiness? "

I just looked at the appendix (the numbers) on that.

Table 4 Overall "USA is 2 and is reference category" - So the US is #2 of 22.

Table 5 Parenthood Effects from Fixed-Effects Regression "USA is ranked last and serves as reference category"

But the US parenthood effect is a drop of -0.127. Which if applied to Table 4 would mean that US parents would be 6th in the Overall category. Behind Switzerland but ahead of Finland.

So, a more correct statement is that US population is very happy (2 of 22), but being a parent drops you to ((6 of 22).

Am I interpreting that correctly?

You can interpret the study as saying "American non-parents are especially happy as they don't have to pay taxes to pay the parenting choices of others".

An alternative explanation is that American culture inculcates a preference for drawing lines somewhat to the right relative to European preferences. Depending on how the evaluation is set up, it could easily explain 0.1-0.2 points of a difference.

I ordered a couple of books from that economic history list, thanks.

The Kalman filter is a good candidate (along with, say, the FFT) for the mathematical algorithm of the 20th century that has had the most positive effect on civilization.

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