Saturday assorted links

1. Good explanation of wage segregation.

2. Box average is over.

3. John Cleese has a new Miss Anne Elk video out.  It’s not funny (at all), but viewing it is an object lesson in just how delicate a balance lies behind good humor.

4. BookForum does libertarianism.

5. “Indonesia considers renaming South China Sea to Natuna Sea.”  I’ve been saying for a long time they need to do something like this.

6. A good reductio of what some of you believe.


#1: Horrible editing.

3: That was beyond awful. It was like watching an animal being beaten, or perhaps watching Obama trying to speak without a teleprompter. Pure agony.

I agree. Should have left that skit in the 70's. And I enjoyed MP in the old days.

And yet we watch.

Cleese is poking us in the eye.

Humor changes over time, and is hard to do right as TC says. Look . I've done standup at the amateur level (Toastmasters). The most fun is watching the crowd react to your jokes. Sometimes they react really well at obvious jokes and sometimes not at all, very hostile. It's a tough form of public speaking. I don't recommend it to thin skinned types but I'm a troll and can take it.

As for Cleese, I've never really seen Monty Python except in small doses. His humor is slapstick, which along with butt jokes gets the most easy laughs. Black knight, Fat man exploding, two that come to mind. The hardest jokes to pull off (and don't get much laughs) are puns. They work in print but not live. Pretty punny eh? Physical anatomy jokes get good laughs too. Petty punny eh? Racist jokes used to get laughs but not anymore unless you're black. Look at this Lenny Bruce skit, the silence is deafening: Jokes against the rich are still OK. David Cross is a good comic IMO. But 25 years from now he will look stale, just like guitar music is stale today.

Cleese is better than that...

Humor is a hit-or-miss thing. The first minute of it amused me, then it ran the joke into the ground a la Familiy Guy. Still not as cringe-worthy as the top linked TIME article about how Trolls Are Ruining The Internet (aka, someone hurt muh feelz). Now THAT'S a sad joke to watch!

6. What some of you believe? Isn't the "liberal neutrality" argument of the authors (for the allocation of liver transplants) the libertarian argument? Allocating a scarce resource (in this case a liver) based on who "deserves" it is the kind of liberal subjectivity and selectivity (enforced by government intervention) that Cowen usually opposes. I would think the most efficient method for allocating any scarce resource (including a liver) would be the market method, with the scarce resource going to the highest bidder. If Mickey Mantle is willing and able to pay the highest price, shouldn't he get the liver? What difference does it make that he needs a liver due to a lifetime of excessive alcohol consumption; after all, he drank copious amounts of alcohol because the health history in his family signaled that he would die very young anyway. That he didn't ("if I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself") shouldn't disqualify him for the liver transplant. The Mick was a libertarian. Are you?

Are you serious? The transplant Market exists outside of a price system. Libertarianis. wouldn't have a problem with what you are suggesting, however logically what you are suggesting has nothing to do with the argument at hand. You are a lawyer, correct?

#6 What's the point of this paper? Alcoholics compete equally for liver transplants already. It's a well-known fact that alcoholic liver disease is an excellent reason for liver transplantation. It's a very common disease and one of the most common reasons for liver transplantations. The other common reasons are hepatitis B and C but their outcomes have been far worse in the past so quite a few surgeons are actually preferring alcoholics.

I think the author was arguing that the status quo, as you say, is just. I just watched a "Karma" episode on Youtube where a teen thug initially denied a scarce heart transplant on account of his criminal record, was given one by the hospital, then he went out and robbed somebody and then crashed and killed himself on a telephone pole. Karma, as well as a waste of society's resources.

Did they harvest the heart again after he died?

It is certainly easier to claim that alcoholism is caused by disease/society and hence the individual is absolved from any responsibility, which sidesteps the issue, but I assume that the point of the paper is to draw out the inherent contradictions of liberal neutrality. In some sense pure liberal neutrality can only be saved from those contradictions by conveniently adding arguments that minimize individual moral responsibility.

Not just that but cultural or moral relativism is suicidal in the face of an enemy that would kill you. How many on the left even believe in neutrality anyway? They make arguments against electing Donald Trump as president because his worldview is "crazy". If all moral systems all ethical systems all worldviews all viewpoints are equal, then this argument is false.

In reality liberal neutrality is simply virtue signalling empathy for the other and superiority to your own.

Black and white thinking will take us very far.

In conflict, a general has no better ally than black and white thinking.

#4: I don't understand how this site works. Do they talk about the books at a later date?

It seems that rewarding bad behavior, including forcing the rest of society to pay (both financially and liver-transplant-supply/demand-wise) for it, is what we do in liberal-neutral (unless you are so essentially evil as to disagree with the liberal orthodoxy du jour), post-modern America.

Old saying (sort of) applies: when the guilty are not punished, the innocent suffer.

In conclusion, I'll drink to . . . ah Hell I don't need an excuse to drink. your own misunderstanding of progressivism. May it never improve.

I guess you don't think through stuff like ... maybe you'll need a transplant one day.

Remember all the stories after Obamacare came out or people who hated his guts for the ACA, and then it saved their life, and now they feel like idiots? I think there are many better ways than the ACA, but given the present realities of the American system most of them are off the table because both parties receive significant campaign financing from companies which receive large profits in the current setup.

#1) I don't understand the argument. Grant that high-productivity workers can more easily be distinguished from low-productivity workers than in the past. Why would that lead to segregation of workers into high and low productivity firms rather than simply leading firms to pay high-productivity workers more than low-productivity workers? It seems like part of the story needs to be that segregating workers actually leads to additional gains, i.e., one firm of high-productivity workers plus one firm of low-productivity workers actually produces more total output than two firms that both have high and low productivity workers. This type of segregated-whole-is-more-than-sum-of-parts effect *may* exist, but the author doesn't seem to mention it. (One commenter, Matt McKnight, does allude to this possibility when talking about gains from outsourcing and specialization.)

Note, these hypothesized segregation gains can accrue to the low-productivity workers as well as, or even instead of, to the high-productivity workers. Even if all the segregation gains arise from pooling, and accrue to, low-productivity workers, there can still be more firm inequality between the high and low productivity firms than between two firms that employ both high and low productivity workers. So, firm inequality is separate from individual inequality. Better information about worker productivity, which the article emphasizes, leads to individual inequality/meritocracy, but need not lead to firm inequality, and firm inequality arising from segregation need not lead to individual inequality.

"Why would that lead to segregation of workers into high and low productivity firms rather than simply leading firms to pay high-productivity workers more than low-productivity workers?"

Yep, that was the first thing I noticed too. If employers can now figure out individual productivity, it seems they could simply adjust pay to match productivity and maintain a heterogeneous mix of employees (sort of like professional sports teams). So why might the trend be in the opposite direction? I suspect you need to add in a worker morale factor. The problem with paying according to productivity within a firm is that employees tend become resentful if there are significant pay discrepancies between workers with the same job type, so wage segregation works better at the firm level.

I forget if it was Cowen or Tabarok, but one of them mentioned O-ring production when writing about hypothetical zero marginal product workers. The idea was that there are companies for whom one employee could cost the company relatively large amounts of profits. So it would make sense for those companies to only hire the best, and to pay very handsomely for it. I'm not sure why firms wouldn't have done this in the past, but rising levels of O-ring production is another plausible theory to throw into the mix.

My understanding is that employers often strongly prefer paying people working side by side the same. Conversations about "Why does Joe get paid 15% more than I do for the same work?" tend to be unpleasant. For understandable psychological reasons, the one who merits lower pay probably will not see it that way.

That's why companies at least used to tie pay to rank. Everyone on the same rung of the ladder gets paid the same. Those who are more highly valued get promoted and thus put into a different milieu -- and from the perspective of those left behind, a different reference group. (In other words, Larry the Lazy doesn't compare himself to Joe anymore since Joe holds a different rank and likely no longer works alongside Larry. Informal norms on socializing within your own level help here.)

This is absolutely part of it, the other part is to escape unions.

A good portion of this is driven by IT (as noted in the paper). As IT became a larger and larger portion of the value proposition of most companies the engineers fled to form companies that sold those services to the parent companies, thus resting more of the surplus from the rentiers. It has been fantastic.

Interesting point, Alain. How in particular do unions play into this?

May not be feasible to compensate employees according to observed productivity because less productive employees won't tolerate someone in their same "position" being paid drastically more than they are. If all those employees leave then you're left with a segregated "high-productivity" firm.

Another point: the ability of employers to evaluate productivity seems to vary greatly. Employers that can evaluate productivity very accurately, and who pay their employees according to productivity, will tend to drive away low-productivity employees since those folks can get paid more by a low-information employer.

Low-information employers, who constantly overpay their employees relative to actual productivity, should be more than likely to fail and cease to employ anyone, but more step up to replace them.

It might just be related to the trend over the last generation against vertical integration and more towards companies "doing what they do best", hence one firm does high-productivity and another firm does low. Kind of like Silicon Valley firms outsourcing the janitorial work.

Because the low productivity workers are in a different country.

Not having to work with low-productivity teammates is a significant non-wage perk, so the firm that employs only high-productivity workers can retain high-productivity personnel for lower wages than a mixed-productivity firm would have to.

This. So much this.

How many low-end workers are Google or Goldman Sachs hiring this year?

I don't think they would accept 99+% of the labour market for $0 an hour.

3. Academic doesn't find humor in a comment on the bombast and evasiveness of academics? You don't say.

#5...I'm surprised that they don't have a sea-naming contest.

1. The article has it wrong. The big change isn't the ability to identify higher achievers because of IT. It is the ability of higher achievers to massively leverage their talents because the network effects of IT. This applies in finance (electronic trading), entertainment, startups (kickstarter), etc. The idea that the managerial class now has more effective sorting tools is a rounding error here. Why shouldn't this be blindingly obvious?

5) Tyler's been saying they should do this "for a long time"? Why? It doesn't make any difference legally, and will probably just make China angry thereby emboldening them. Meaningless at best, stupid at worst.

It's the geopolitical equivalent of a Jan comment.
Same root cause too crippling status anxiety.

I see you agree with me.

Look at the size of Natuna Island. The mouse that roars.

Next we might have Bermuda considers renaming North Atlantic Ocean to Bermuda (or British) Ocean, NATO to BTO.,_Britannia!

1. Hmmm. I've always thought firms had a fairly good idea who (at least at any given time) were the superstars, who were the solid performers and who needed a pat on the head or a boot to the bottom. In the old days they used internal labor markets (which is how "entry-level" positions got their name, back when many more people -- like Jack Welch -- spent their entire careers in one firm). So if a worker turned out well, he got promoted -- and his raise came automatically with the rank.

I think the main change here is the portability of that information. Yes, it's less asymmetrical, but in a different direction. The bosses always had this information, but now the workers can not only take it but also prove it to outsiders through data.

I don't know.

My 1st company was one of these old school companies. Promotions in the 1st few years were on a fairly tight schedule. One could move forward somewhat more quickly, perhaps at double the rate of the average employee thorough hard work and talent, but it was a long hard slog. Further, there was a good amount of resentment from fellow workers.

Thank goodness that I was able to escape to the more lucrative firms.

They should go the corporate sponsorship route and make it Chicken Of The Sea.

This is closer to correct but still really "management sciencey" compared to what is really going. The **actual** returns to being smart, computer literate, and talented have step-functioned. It's not the ability to report it to someone else.

#6. If you are a moral relativist, then a man needing a new penis because his broke off inside of a child he was raping has just as much justification as anyone else to receive a limited transplant.

How about a utility argument: the alcoholic has a disease that is likely to destroy another liver, the child rapist will hurt others with his new penis. But if you were a scummy, vile leftist worshipping Chomsky, you could make the argument that the existence of the United States, or white people, or Christianity, or men, or the West hurts people, so rape away.

If you think in black and white, it might seem that way.

Most people do not consider replacing the penis of a pedophile rapist to be similar to a liver transplant for an alcoholic.

Just don't know where you come up with this stuff. Imo, sometimes you have very smart stuff to say, but then ... this. Left/right conservative/liberal enters the picture, and it's as though all reason goes straight out the window.

AND ... WOOOOOWWWW. Who the hell even thinks of stuff like that? You must have some troubling influences affecting you these days, to be coming up with something so far off the deep end. I mean, sure, sometimes frank discussion on important issues gives reason to talk about things that people really don't want to think about. But that? Man, that's not the gutter, not the sewer ... it's gotta be about the second or third sickest thing I've read on a comment board ever.


One great little tidbit in the article is how Ezra and most of his staff at Vox are a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites. I did enjoy that.

China did the same thing. Don't remember Peking? Chungking? Tsingtao? As far as I'm concerned, it's their cities so they can do what they want with them. At least they left the name of the country as China. As I recall at the time of the Great Renaming, there was some talk that it would become Zhangguo or something like that.

That was a reply to a comment that appears to have been deleted while I was writing it.

The new Indian names are often the old , pre-British historical ones. Often make sense to them.

I have never in my life, I think, said "Ho Chi Minh City" or "Beijing", and I know quite a few people from those places. Not that anyone should much care, but I have my standards. Back in the day, when I use to ride cheap buses with bad or no air conditioning, I always use to admire the nuns on the bus who refused to look put out at the discomfort of the ride.

Welcome to nio u-way

Different sounds in different languages. It'll always seem a little odd. Bonus points if you can figure out what city I'm talking about :)

We should go back to calling it Cathay. That'd larn 'em. Similarly Hindustan.

I was once cuckolded by a Hindustani

I'm too physically repulsive to cuckold anyone.

msgkings - people want companionship. Maugham did not start writing short stories until his mid 40s because he did not understand until then why we are all so confused about the physical feelings people who are not attractive have for each other (the physical feelings that the attractive have for other attractive people are understood fairly easily, which is why it is not that hard for those who understand that simple but unhelpful fact to make a living in the advertising and similar industries - and, from another and opposite point of view, why the young Maugham did not know that he had anything on similar subjects worth saying. He was wrong - not that he cares, at this point, God Bless him - and we will never have the short stories of the young Maugham - but that is understandable). Anyway, I guarantee you that I know several shady "matchmakers" who could find for you, with a little effort, dozens of people who would want to be cuckolded by you. The Book of Proverbs teaches us, including me, that to do so would be wrong on my part to introduce you to those "matchmakers" - and the Book of Proverbs is right about that - but that is another subject. You will not find the foregoing insight on the art of Maugham on Wikipeidia, ever, but there are lots of people in this world who will know what you are talking about if you quote a few words from this (obscure) comment. (To save you the effort of looking it up, Maugham's best short stories were written when he was well past his youth).

That was amazing.

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