Sunday assorted links


#1 I am offended all the time, but I do not keep talking about it.

#6 "Charles Dickens stopped PT Barnum from buying Shakespeare’s house and shipping it to the U.S."
But could he stop PT Barnum from claiming to have bought Shakespeare’s house and shipped it to the U.S?

'6. Thwarted markets in everything'

From the article, it seems as if no market was actually thwarted, but instead worked as intended, though without a huckster being able to hide behind a veil of secrecy -

'It must have been a heart-stopping moment for the committee when bidding at the auction opened at 1,500 guineas, up to 2,000 in the next bid. The auctioneer was then informed that the committee could offer £3,000, the underbidder dropped out, and the house was saved.

The auction scene will be recreated at the house on the anniversary date next September, and a temporary exhibition will tell the story of Dickens and the sale which launched the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The trust’s five properties had a record year in 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, attracting 825,000 visitors.

If Barnum had managed to acquire the house, it would have been destroyed in 1868 when his museum burned to the ground.'

Actually, international trade was thwarted by "Stratford-upon-Avon First" people.

"From the article, it seems as if no market was actually thwarted," prior_test2 is right. The statement that market was thwarted gives the impression that the government prevented PT Barnum form acquiring the property irrespective of how much he was willing to pay for it or if he was compelled to keep it intact. And given the contribution Shakespeare made to England's culture, a case can be made for the state thwarting the market in this case.

I don't think we need to defend evil things. I don't think anyone could be offended all the time. I find someone telling me that they're offended equivalent to their informing me that they have gas, meaning, all things being equal, I should excuse myself from their presence. As with gas, offended people should move somewhere devoid of people and not boast about their condition. I don't think I've ever said "I'm offended" because it's not funny. Instead, I might say "How dare you!" or "So now we see you as you really are." Only terminally self-righteous people get offended. People really insulted would physically respond to such a provocation, preferably by waiting until the other person is distracted.

#3: The view that small feet and their supposed beauty were the motivation for footbinding is ridiculous. Such cruel, wide-spread and persistent practices almost always require strong economic incentives. This article states the economic side of foot-binding as if it were a new, radical theory, when in fact it is (I think) common knowledge that foot-binding served exactly that purpose. This thing about beauty etc is just the weak rationalizations people used to whitewash a terrifying culture of abuse (against women BY women).

#4 is much more interesting, but again pretty derivative. Think tanks are indeed losing influence to hit-and-run consultants, as are many things that constitute long-term planning, strategy etc. It's a tweet-a-second world now. But we know that already. A less-well known factoid is that modern video media is finally hitting a platuea of scene-cuts per minute. What I mean is that old movies might spend continous minutes showing a single scene, whereas today everything is chopped up into a fraction-of-second psychedelic jumble (that leaves no time for thinking). But again, we are reaching a plateua with that; movies like la la land are bucking trend; other movies are learning how to use fast-paced cuts well. Hopefully in another decade we'll be sick of 'living in the moment'. Then, think tanks might do well again..

It is not clear to me how the footbinding story advanced what we already from Steve Cheung's 1972 Economic Journal article on the enforcement of property rights in marriage.

I liked this:

It looks to me like almost every political philosopher through history spends most of his or her time trying to explain why people in power should be held to lower than normal moral standards. Many of my colleagues see themselves as defending the poor and downtrodden, but to me it looks like many of their ideas about economics are simply outside the realm of reasonable debate. I expect that giving many of my colleagues (even the self-described anarchists) the policies they want would lead to gulags, mass starvation, democide, and authoritarian politics. I see many of my colleagues as providing moral cover for rent-seekers. Most democratic theory reads to me like a sixty pages of arcane Dungeons and Dragons bullshit followed by the conclusion that groups of people can violate individuals’ rights at will. When other people in the field are offended, half the time it looks to me like they’re pushing to get themselves and their friends increased status, power, and money.

The people who dominate academia now are the 1968 generation - people who thought Ho Chi-minh was a good guy. People who wanted the Killing Fields. Sensible people draw the appropriate conclusion.

4. So bullshit artists are being replaced by other bullshit artists?

I am offended by intelligent people trying to make ethical arguments based on a consistent ethical philosophy when it is pretty obvious our ethical taste is a genetic algorithm developed through evolution to allow our ancestors to cooperate in small groups. Ethics should be a branch of psychology not philosophy. Philosophy should simply say that people should do what they think riight, and leave it at that.

3. I don't know why "rent-seeking" has come to mean all financially-motivated behavior of which an economist disapproves. I see the economic motive for foot-binding (I would have to do more research to know if the article is really persuasive, but put that aside), but in what sense does the behavior of foot-binding parents involve seeking to control factors of production which produce returns in excess of their opportunity cost?

It depends which opportunity cost you use. The sans-footbinding opportunity cost would be much higher. Once we take footbinding as a given--opportunity cost is much lower. The parents thus produce returns in excess of what they would given natural (market?) condtions

3. I can't say for sure whether this impression is a result of common knowledge or my fevered imagination, but I had always thought that one basis for footbinding was that it provided an additional ersatz orifice for sexual penetration.

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