Sunday assorted links

1. Herbert Spencer on euthanasia.

2. Slaughtering the radioactive wild boars of Fukushima.

3. My Bloomberg podcast on complacency.  And Michael Barone reviews Complacent Class.

4. The fifty greatest conductors of all time?

5. Those new service sector jobs: “That time I hired a professional masturbation coach.”  The link doesn’t show “it” directly, but still I think would count as not safe for work.  And is sex overrated?  Safe for work.

6. Ariel Rubinstein reviews Dani Rodrik, also safe for work.


2. Do you want orcs? Because that's how you get orcs.

Okay, let's say this all together, The Boars Are Not Radioactive.

Does nobody actually read the article? The radiation risks in Fukushima are extraordinarily low, without unfounded, unscientific fears about radioactive boars.

The story is about how wild boars have overtaken an uninhibited area. This is not uncommon for boars, who are very aggressive, and a nuisance animal everywhere. In Texas they shoot them from helicopters by the dozens.

Radioactive boars is how you get Bebops.

4 is a pretty good list if you ignore the attempt to insert pygmies like Dudamel among the giants like Reiner and Szell for the sake of including some contemporary artists. It would be like making a list of the greatest Hollywood films since the 1970s and fooling yourself into thinking that there were even five films made since 2001 that match the top 20 of 1970 to 1980.

I couldn't get the link to load, and do not remotely know enough to discuss which conductors belong on such a list and which don't.

I do know enough to know that lists like this are nonsense. By what standard is the 51st greatest conductor of all time worse than the last choice on the list? Are there really critics or writers who think they can draw a distinction?

Copper is the best conductor in common use, gold is better but much more expensive. Or, maybe you're talking about the men that run trains. There doesn't seem to be much of a hierarchy of talent in that business.

No, copper is a better conductor than gold. Gold is used on some electrical contacts because it is a noble metal, so it won't oxidize or tarnish. It also is used for the bond wires in plastic-packaged integrated circuits, but that's because it is flexible.

At least two of the conductors listed (Klemperer and Walter) had as listed that they knew Mahler. Why is he not on the list?

Silver is better than copper or gold. But it was always the middle kid and nobody paid any attention to it. ;)

> fooling yourself into thinking that there were even five films made since 2001 that match the top 20 of 1970 to 1980.

How adorable, the cult of 70's cinema. The truth is you can easily find 5 movies from any modern decade that can easily fit alongside the top 20 of the 70's.

>"Sexless Americans reported very similar happiness levels as the sexually active."

I'm calling BS on this.

Bill Clinton has always been MUCH happier than Hillary.

He has been happier because he has sex or he has (more) sex because he is happy?

Relative to Hillary I'm sure he has more sex because he has more charisma.

Clinton's charisma has always been based on his political power. Prior to becoming governor of Arkansas he had to settle for females like his eventual wife, later he was able to enjoy successful encounters with more desirable women.

You sound like a vast right-wing conspiracy to me. How deplorable.

3. Related to your concerns about worker mobility, a piece at Forbes frames the healthcare debate in these terms:

"A dynamic national economy requires an optimal degree of what economists call ‘factor-mobility.’ People have to be willing and able to move to where they’re needed, as centers of production move back and forth over time."

Yeah, but what else would you expect from a Marxist publication like Forbes.

Show me worker mobility in Europen vs China.

3. Barone's review affirms the point the review in the WSJ (inadvertently) made: there's something for everybody in The Complacent Class, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians, because readers see what they want to see. That's a heck of an accomplishment, and Cowen should be recognized for it. I'm reminded of the automobile safety expert who, upon seeing the carnage of the wrecked red sports car, opined that cars ought not be painted red.

The complacency class owes a lot to Peter Thiel's "zero to one"

5. I'm pretty sure women need it as affirmation. Me, I'd prefer a backrub and a beer.

#3. Complacency is a negative word. Dynamism and innovation are positive words. However it's not obvious to me how correlated these instinctive connotations to are to their actual impact on people's lives. Must human kind be doomed to discontent for fear of losing ground? This shows the same lack of imagination that has led to very little reduction in working hours despite great leaps forward in productivity for nearly a century.

Tyler Cowen is an economist in his soul, and so searches for "productivity" as a measure of human progress. If there isn't growing productivity, people must be doing something wrong.

Maybe I believe in a weak form of that. Productivity is good, but not every productivity loss is a human tragedy. If the corporate worker bee shifts down to yoga instructor, maybe a lot of people get happier, while less money changes hands.

What does a humane philosophy of human progress look like? Concentrate on the happiness and push productivity down to a contributing, but not even necessary factor?

If you need high incomes to suport yoga classes as a viable career choice your theory won't work.

High, but ever higher?

True, if the individual, and the society are "wealthy enough." Tyler says one of the problems of decreasing productivity is "pretty soon you are not able to pay your bills." And if large groups of people--like the "white male working class"--had a higher inflation-adjusted income in 1969, then there might be a problem somewhere. If you have a lot of money, then it can be "counter-productive" for your happiness to work 60 hours per week. But if your "productivity" is low enough that you cannot afford decent food, or a decent overall lifestyle, then that is problem for your happiness level also.

1. Cowen (or is it Spencer?) has a great sense of humor: an effort to avoid inequality is a means of euthanasia.

"Ariel Rubinstein reviews Dani Rodrik, also safe for work."
Not if the boss find me reading it when I should be at work.

One factor not tied to "complacency" behind the much cited decline in interstate migration is the rise of two-income households. When both have jobs, it is a lot harder to move. But, well, maybe having two jobs in a family makes it complacent.

Government funding for Interstate migration, direct and indirect, has been cut by a great deal in the past three to four decades.

Before running out of land expropriation from its owners, the government gave nearly free land to people if they moved. And at the same time, government gave free land plus cheap loans to capitalists if they built businesses that would bring people cheaply and give them jobs.

From 1935, government paid the costs of individuals to move across the US to work in different parts of the US for a few years to see how moving would be better than staying where they grew up: CCC, then military (draft) service, then Vista and Peace Corp, plus rather generous Federal funding of college or university for people who lived no where near a college or university that offered courses the individuals wanted. These payments to migrate have been cut back drastically since the 70s.

Instead of ten people serving 18 months in maybe three States (draftees), today one person serves out of the State they returned to after a stint in the military in one State and in combat (reservists). Draftees would be sent to boot camp in one State giving them a sense of the culture, then to service in Vietnam, or Korea or Germany, et al, with transit points in the US, then to a US base in another State to burn off time. With bases or facilities in every State, most jobs filled by military, lots of jobs needed to be filled and draftees filled them for a time. The carrot of enlisting for 3 years was getting the opportunity to chose travel, with the stick of 2 years with no choice of where you travel.

And to support the big government of the cold war, government paid businesses only if they put jobs in all the States, which meant businesses had to pay to move people to the places the government paid them to do cold war work. And building the Interstates, a cold war spending program, had uniform costs of labor independent of the population, so people were paid to move to rural places by government to build, even if they lived only temporarily in these rural areas.

When government pays young people to move around, and pays for young spouses back home or to move with them in temporary living, even two income families migrate. If one spouse spends six months living and working in a new place, they can sell the other spouse on moving, especially if the spouse can visit from home cheaply.

And in the private sector, corporations paid it's employees to move with the tax dodge of paying the cost cutting taxes by 50% and up. Moving an experienced worker would probably be cheaper after taxes than hiring and training a local person, with the local worker generating no revenue for months or years while moving a worker would result in revenue almost immediately. Today, tax cuts have eliminated taxes on revenue so hiring workers who don't generate revenue, or paying more to move workers, comes 80-100% out of profits. Thus businesses have lots of reasons to flee places without big pools of existing skilled workers.

In a certain way, it does. It helps to desguise the fall of the living standards in the USA. If only the toddler and the dog could be made to pay their fair share, too...

Frankly, what Tyler calls complacency looks in many of the cases he cites as being rational fear or simply limits having nothing to do with attitudes. The poster boy data cited by pretty much every reviewer are the low interstate migration numbers and the slowdown in patenting. Interstate migration is lower not only because of double income families and reduced tax breaks, as noted above, but stagnant wages over the last 40 years. So, if family moves and one spouse fails to get another job, family income (and also satisfaction, hi divorce) falls unless the gaining spouse really gets a super big raise. it is fear of loss, not loss of love of opportunity that lies behind this decline in interstate migration. Hardly complacency. Not at all. it is fear of loss, well justified.

On the matter of patenting, Tyler himself has undercut this one himself in his previous work on secular stagnation. Like Gordon, he is among those who is a scientific pessimist: we have made most of our really important scientific discoveries. Well, maybe we have and maybe we haven't, but it is true that we have not seen anything appearing from science that is all that dramatically new for awhile, so the opportunities for serious patenting have simply fallen. That people are not rushing out to patent things may well reflect that there is less to patent, not some increase in complacency. Tyler himself recognizes this one.

One area where he might have more of a case is the matter of reduced startups. But again here there are external factors that may be playing into this rather than some emotional mood of complacency. One is simply that with fewer patents, and thus fewer new products, there is less opportunity. Another is that it looks like some sectors are becoming more concentrated with a long-running merger wave, with this also possibly tied to the decline in labor share of income (and those stagnant wages that increase fear). Those sectors do not look like good prospects for wannabe entrepreneurs. I would note that in one's where there remains a lot of openness there seems to be a plenty of startups, with restaurants one that comes to mind, although maybe even the rate of their formation has fallen.

Anyway, I think maybe the book should have been called the _The Fearful Class_ rather than _The Complacent Class_, wiith this problem popping up in the posts about "who is the complacent class?" It looks to me like that only applied to that very narrow top group, the top 1 or 2 percent, maybe a few more, with the rest, the vast majority of the population, being a fearful class, facing stagnant wages, declining social supports such as reasonably guaranteed retirement pensions, and much else.

BTW, pervasive fear, not complacency, goes a long way in explaining the rise of Donald Trump, even if he did lose the popular vote.

You have a good point about the start ups. It'll be interesting if those numbers return to normal in the next year or two. From my vantage point, it is just more difficult to launch a new business due to increased regulation. Paperwork has become overwhelming for small companies. I think it is the fed up class that got Trump elected.

Sex is definitely not overrated.

please delete that is not art deco

#4 ----- If you can play an instrument and like music and have access to scores of the great orchestral works --- there is more than a lifetime of them, but I guess that 5 to ten thousand is an accurate guess --- you will not for a moment believe that there are fifty (50!) conductors who can "illuminate music in a way that you couldn't possibly have imagined". Sure, they (the vwidayooashheeye conductors, as they say in Russian - the conductors who are seen as "giving in a recognized way", roughly translated) fill out details, like a talented pen and ink illustrator of a great novel, but if you like music, you do not need someone like a "top 50" conductor to speak to you about things like the beauty Mozart saw in the morning breeze playing over the juniper-dotted meadows where beautiful Lise with her A-minor voice smiled with joy to see B-flat major Emil with his answering tenor. That being said, I would be happy, if asked, to add to the list of 50 from recordings I have heard ---- Kirill Kondrashin, Rach 2, Karajan, Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances, Rostropovich, Dutilleux, Abramavel, Gottschalk, and Toscanini, Verdi .... although, with the exceptions of Kondrashin and Abramave;, well I could have imagined the music being played that way.... (perhaps since the euphonium is my best instrument I simply do not understand .... I rarely say that what I think is right, I generally only say this is what I think...). (A good youtube explanation of this comment is from the great Christopher Walken - google "Christopher Walken Casals quartet" - great stuff). (By the way if English is not your native language I apologize - scores in the first sentence had nothing to do with multiples of 20 it referenced nothing other than the written notes from which music is (a) played by people who are too lazy to memorize or otherwise remember the beautiful sounds they are singing or otherwise causing to be, with affection and gratitude, one hopes, blissfully heard or (b) written in musical notation.

vwidayooasheekhseye - "giving in an outstandingly recognized way" .... pure nonsense of course. Nothing wrong with the Russian word in question but what it true is true and words that can be translated as "giving in an outstandingly recognized way" are words that were never, absent more (cor ad cor loquitur!!!) meant to be worth our time. !946 (sad), 1963 (trying not to be as sad), 1989 (trying to be honest), 2017 (out of my bailiwick to say sad or not sad....).

Do you know what a run-on sentence is? Just be concise and interesting, and the butt-fingerer will go away.

Good advice, Thor. In non-internet life I avoid run-on sentences; I am truly interested in hearing what my interlocutor has to say. I overcompensate on-line when trying to communicate with negative people. I had planned to return, with an unexpectedly concise prose style, with some short advice for him: (a) avoid on-line communications for two weeks: (b) Read Proverbs 1 through 8 every night for ten days and then Philippians 1 through 4 for four days: (c) and in two weeks, consider what new things you have to say. Sorry, Thor, if you read all yesterday's groundwork for that good advice which were in a very indulgent (and as you pointed out, not a very good) prose style. By the way I did not really mind his criticism of me, even though I disagreed with it: my little paragraph on conductors was, in fact, on the pompous side, and did not represent my true thoughts...but I did think there was something worth saying. Nobody is perfect.

For the record, I just reread my paragraph. Upon rereading it, I wouldn't call it pompous. I don't like the expressed presumption that "I" could list a few out of 50 conductors who should be considered exceptional. That being said, that is a presumption which I would not expect any knowledgeable reader to take literally.... We musicians joke about how much we know about music and don't expect people to take us seriously when we do that. When they do (take us literally), we do, I admit, sound pompous, but that is not our fault. (also, I did not reread my 30 or so comments, but I think I was not clear with one of them - my piano teacher actually did, I think, cry with joy at my piano playing - but in a dream one night after hearing me play, not while hearing me play. Big difference! But internet comments are not edited, so I don't feel too bad about that.)

I am a lot humbler than I sound on the internet, I could never give a performance nearly as good as Christopher Walken's two or three hundred words, referenced at "Christopher Walken Casals quartet".

Thanks for reminding me about Coming Apart in #3. Just bought it. Hope people aren't ignoring it because of the uproar about his Bell Curve.

Eugene Ormandy? one of the greatest conductors? Definitely not!

I would add Jascha Horenstein (Mahler, Brahms) and delete Klemperer (ragged Bruckner, plodding other things).

Sex is so hormone driven it totally depends on age, libido and life status.

After I had a baby I realized that breastfeeding is better than sex. It's an emotionally fulfilling sensual activity that is not at all sexual. Like cuddling up with an adorable kitten, only better.

The importance of sex just changes a lot depending on where you are in life. Older people with kids probably derive infinitely more satisfaction by vicarious observation of their kids achievements.

#2 is really interesting. Wildlife returned to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, but in Fukushima's case the time when there was true wilderness in Japan might be beyond even historical memory. I'll be avidly following what happens there.

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