Thursday assorted links

1. Noah Smith responds on market power.  I say concentration alone doesn’t mean much; that’s been accepted since the 1970s, and I still see no evidence for market power showing up as retail output restrictions at a higher pace, and that is the most direct and welfare-relevant prediction of the theory.  Without that evidence, the story doesn’t have support, and the burden of proof is on that side of the argument.  (Furthermore I am worried that they don’t even mention this test, much less perform it.)  And if intermediate input market power doesn’t “trickle down” into consumer goods output restrictions…it’s like that proverbial tree falling the forest.

And here is a Matt Yglesias dialogue with the authors, I haven’t heard it yet.

2. There is a world championship in Excel spreadsheets, and it was just won by a 17-year-old from northern Virginia.

3. Robin Hanson’s Age of Em TED talk.

4. Andrew Batson on Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island.

5. Julia Galef lists (but does not endorse) unpopular ideas.  I agree with very few of them, by the way, but they are intrinsically interesting to ponder.  What also strikes me is the implicit terms of debate, mostly moves toward greater social liberalism.  How about Christian or extremely non-egalitarian ideas?

6. Are “walking marriages” disappearing in Sichuan?


Any on what he actually did to win the excel championship?

"During the Event, eligible entrants will be given a high-resolution copy of a Word document, an Excel workbook, or a PowerPoint presentation to recreate.........entrants will receive a printed set of guidelines containing specification for the document, workbook, or presentation, and data files that can be used as building blocks to speed up the recreation of the document, workbook, or presentation. Entrants will be allowed up to fifty (50) minutes to recreate the document, workbook, or presentation they are provided."

should be any info

#5. Julia does her part to keep the 'rationalist community' weird.

From the link: "It should not be considered noble to remain anonymous when donating to charity, because publicizing one’s donation encourages other people to donate." That kinda makes me wonder if that logic is 180 wrong and the publicity actually dissuades additional donations. If I hear that Bill Gates has donated a 75 quadrillion to fight AIDS in Africa (or whatever), my reaction is "oh, good; well, they should have that under control in the next few years then" and so I would never ever think about making a donation of my own to some AIDS in Africa type organization. Disclose that a sizable donation to charity has been made, obscure the recipient(s) and purpose, that's my intuition.

Felicitously, after scanning that inane list, I am confirmed in my satisfaction that I am not an intellectual).

Rationalist community or the autistic liberaltarian community?

1. Matt Yglesias is a philosophy major who was assigned by some webzine to cover economics. He knows nothing.

You are too kind, but right on.

Good thing no econ majors ever write about philosophy in the liberarian-conservatarian-alt-neuro sphere, eh?

#5: is idea number 22 about suicide unpopular?

1. Wouldn't the Eurozone market be a good counterpoint to the American economy here? They're about the same size and level of development. But market concentration and mega-cap firms have been much less a trend in the EU. Largely because of a combination of more vigorous anti-trust, support for national champions, and different industry-composition (e.g. the tech sector has led the concentration push). I believe the proportion of European firms in the top 100 largest companies has about fallen in half since 2000.

Yet the Eurozone seems to be experiencing the same anemic growth patterns as the US. Now this doesn't mean, that there's not any other factors at play. Maybe Europe's getting a boost from less market power, but is being dragged down more by some other X. However that being said, Noah et al. are positing that the difference between 1997's growth and 2017's is due to market power. That's a pretty massive difference: productivity growth is 65% lower than the late 90s.

To balance it out, Europe would have to have one hell of an X-factor. An theory that implies such a massive quantity of dark matter, should at least make some attempt to explain it. Or failing that, at least identify and demonstrate its existence.

4. Daniel Elkind has a good piece on Russian travel writing (and Chekhov) over at LARB, btw...

5. 'How about Christian or extremely non-egalitarian ideas'

Well, the extreme egalitarian basis of Christianity continues to be a real problem for those with any wealth hoping to thread the needle to heaven. For example, #2 on that list would still seem to fail the test of this parable -

And #12 seems a bit parochial in terms of its unpopularity, as 'locker rooms should be unisex' is the case in a typical German sauna, for example, at Vierordtbad (which makes some sense, considering that everyone in the sauna is generally naked anyways, of all ages). One could assume that the Nordic nations with a sauna tradition are likely the same way. though I honestly don't know about Finland or Sweden. And it is not unusual to see boys/men and girls/women changing outer clothes in front of each other, both outdoors and in an indoor setting (getting naked is not as common, tending to be more in connection with swimming, with a certain polite discretion maintained in general).

And a normal German Kindergarten communal bathroom in this town (that children attend to the age of 7 or so) is unisex, and does not have stall doors at all. One could make an obvious remark about how much young kids care about such things, but instead, it is enough to note that they find it completely normal. A stall door seems more relevant in such cases for adults, not whether the bathroom as a space is shared (it certainly can be during a fest or concert here).

Always read the text above the list, as in this case, she clearly says it is parochial right at the start - 'at least, to most educated urbanites in the United States' (still looking for what makes her a noted part of the ‘rationalist community’ on her site).

nonono, you're confused. we don't mean the rancid pile of crap that Jesus fellow was rambling on about. we meet Christianity, that holy and blessed doctrine passed down from our most Holy Lord Constantine.

If you want to see an unpopular idea, how about the notion that people who hear voices shouldn't be treated with antipsychotic drugs?

"Even though people decry it as “superficial,” there’s nothing wrong with explicitly prioritizing physical attractiveness in choosing a partner, any more than other qualities like education, sense of humor, etc."

The alternative is just to lie about it.

That she thinks that's an "unpopular idea" just goes to show how much she lives in a bubble.

"There’s nothing wrong with relationships with large age gaps." Good Lord, to people actually need to be told that?

"Divorce should be stigmatized more than it is now, to preserve the significance of marital commitment." If divorce is easy and stigma-free, there’s no incentive for people to think carefully before they get married or try to get through rough patches." That seems worth considering, insofar as anyone thinks that considering it will change anything.

"There’s not much difference between physical assault and sexual assault": I think I'd want to hear some women's views on that.

"Bathrooms and/or locker rooms should be unisex. There’s no principled reason to preserve the same-sex custom — it can’t be because of sexual attraction, because we don’t exclude gay people from same-sex bathrooms or locker rooms." Is she contractually obliged to include non-sequiturs?

"Brexit would be good for the UK and the world": an idea so unpopular that it won the People's Plebiscite.

I'm pretty sure extra-credit cannot be mandatory.


"We should de-stigmatize suicide, because some people would in fact be better off ending their lives."

This can be read as either incredibly cruel or incredibly sympathetic. Are they better off as determined by themselves - someone in chronic pain, etc. - or as determined by vague societal pressures that have given the person a sense that there's no point to going on? As in, "I'm 58, unemployed, single, childless, struggling with addiction"; rationalist responds "you're right, the odds of you climbing out of a such a scenario are astronomical, and since finding god is goofy, you may as well off yourself."

"We should show the same degree of sympathy and aid towards people who are involuntarily celibate as we do towards people who don’t get enough food to eat."

Ooh, that's a tough one, seeing as how sympathy toward the involuntarily celibate is mitigated by the negative vibes - awkwardness, "creepiness" - they give off that's perceived as a harm by others.

Hi Tyler - Could you please write a comment on the latest paper from Piketty & Co?

Just heard Ezra Klein comment on it and he paints a depressing picture.

#1... "I say concentration alone doesn’t mean much..." Say it all you want, but it means fewer choices. For example, I'll be long dead before Criterion allows consumers to purchase all of their titles electronically. Same goes for ebooks by Wittgenstein. This is called 'lack of choice' and it pisses me off. That's what concentration does. It restricts choices. It doesn't mean having no choices. The burden of proof is on you to explain such restrictions without recourse to some nostrums about capitalism and how it works. Tell me exactly what's going on here. Broaden your horizons as you scan for market power.

1. Cowen: "I say concentration alone doesn’t mean much; that’s been accepted since the 1970s. . . ." Maybe someone needs to remind Cowen that there's been this economic revolution since the 1970s: it's called the global economy. I'm older than Cowen and I often reflect back on ancient history, but I'm not a celebrity economist. Things are different now. If Cowen's heroes form times past were alive today, they may not be Cowen's heroes today.

"Accepted since the 1970s" doesn't mean" was known in the 1970s and has since been refuted, you gibbering idiot.

1) Some people might argue that there could be other undesirable effects of increasing market power beyond its direct effect on consumers, e.g. falling labor share and rising inequality. Most consumers are also workers, and their economic well-being is affected by both sides of the consumption/production equation.

5. I think more moderated versions of many of these are basically mainstream ideas, or at least things that are discussed with much less skepticism

for example "It should be considered shameful to earn more than $100,000/yr and not give everything above that to charity" is just an extreme version of the same idea behind progressive income tax.

And this one "Even though people decry it as “superficial,” there’s nothing wrong with explicitly prioritizing physical attractiveness in choosing a partner, any more than other qualities like education, sense of humor, etc." I don't think is an unpopular idea at all. In fact, I think that is more or less the basis of visual marketing.

"People in BDSM [consensual] master-slave relationships should be able to be public about their relationship (wear a slave collar at work, introduce their partner socially as their “master,” etc.). It’s not fair to ask them to hide their sexual identity any more than it’s fair to ask gay people to hide theirs." this one seems to be related to the recent controversy re Larry Garfield (Drupal/PHP developer, Google it if you have to). I don't think it's a controversial or unpopular idea with libertarians and the fact that it shows up on this list is a reflection mainly of how puritanical and un-liberated our society still is, even the parts of it that identify as "liberal" (the term has become a joke).

"Divorce should be stigmatized more than it is now, to preserve the significance of marital commitment. If divorce is easy and stigma-free, there’s no incentive for people to think carefully before they get married or try to get through rough patches." not at all an unpopular idea. in fact this is still the prevailing norm amongst almost all religious denominations (both conservative and liberal) and I can't think of any social movement that is pro-divorce. the fact that the divorce rate is high does not mean people think of divorce as a good thing. The question of how much stigma or penalty to place on it is the one I think the author is trying to highlight here but as far as I can tell the legal penalty for divorce is still exceptionally high (for men, mostly).

"The cultural norms and values of the Boomer generation are sociopathic." this isn't controversial or unpopular in my generation or the one above mine. in fact, I think even a lot of boomers think that their generation is sociopathic. all of the evidence points to yes. the ultra-narcissism, greed, short-term thinking, trashing of tradition, trashing of the future, trashing of the social fabric, and trashing of financial stability are features of the baby boomer generation.

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