Request for requests

What would you all like to hear about?  I do pay some heed, sometimes.


You make reference to alternatives to behavioral therapies when it comes to autism. Could you shed light on what existing research there is on this point? (With the understanding that there is very little RCT both ways). And maybe elaborate more on what you believe are the pros and cons to behavioral v other methods?

We're almost at the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses, but the Reformation is probably less thought about than at any time since it happened. What are some of its lasting intellectual effects?

Perhaps the Tyler Cowens Guide to 10.5 hr layover in Los Angeles. Ive never set foot in California (Please hlp)

Go to Huaen Restaurant in Gardena for the fried squid balls, shredded seaweed, and tea eggs. Yelp review indicates that it has actually closed since I last visited it, but let's be honest that just makes it more authentic and gritty.

Just keep an eye out for rouge replicants.

AI is much discussed, in particular there is Max Tegmark's book Life 3.0. Robin Hanson has had similar thoughts in Age of Em. Your thoughts on the long term implications of the technology? Are we all out of work?

This might be pretty basic, but what are your thoughts on whether "real" socialism has ever been tried? What about "real" capitalism?

The answer is so complicated it takes a video that is 24 hours long for many people to really understand.

These are two of my more oddball ideas:

Did the Industrial Revolution benefit countries with more homogeneity of language the most?

Would bimetallism have lessened the Great Depression?

More mainstream: How should slow readers maximize their reading?

Always read secondary sources, meaning, don't read Homer in the original archaic Greek (which even I can't do, and I speak and read modern Greek) but a derivative source like a reputable English language interpretation of Homer. This trick speeds up learning stuff immensely, at the cost of some gating and filtering of content. And for law school I hated the "Socratic Method", what a waste of time. Give me the nutshell!

Agree in most cases, Ray. But not when it comes to literary classics, which give a far deeper aesthetic pleasure that a gloss, crib or primer can provide.

What is the most important idea you've ever shared on this blog that I need to tell non-readers about? My first instinct is the importance of growth as discussed in your unpublished (but occasionally shared) little ethics book.

Best Utopian science fiction (top 5, top 10... just more than one) and why did you like the Three Body Problem series

How likely is Mandarin going to displace Spanish, Arabic, French etc. in the ranking of most used business languages? I assume English will be the preferred language for most for a long time to come, but will there come a day (say in the next 30 years) when it's important to speak Mandarin in order to conduct business internationally?

In 30 years time, which language you speak (for business) will be less important than the quality of your real time translation systems. Besides, by the time you get the contract, your AI lawyer and your AI Accountant will have already communicated with the other company's AI, and you may not even understand their language at all. And they will be doing that hundreds of times a second. Signing a contract as such may become an interesting anachronism.

Whether it is accurate (leaving aside uncivil) to describe someone who thinks that there will be AI lawyers and/or accountants within a couple of decades as a 'fucking moron' ?

And perhaps more pertinently, given that both law and accountancy are nominally rules based, your thoughts on what might be the likely limitations of 'AI' accountants/lawyers.

your thoughts on replacing income and consumption taxes by a wealth tax?

Yes, and your thoughts on replacing income with a progressive consumption tax?

Your thoughts on tax incidence.

Your thoughts on a zero business income taxes for American businesses within the U.S.

Are new taxes are possible with low cost computation? Could these eliminate individual filing entirely?

A VAT would have been computationally impossible for Bob Cratchet, but maybe now something VATish could be applied to all transactions .. in a unified tax architecture.

What, in your opinion, is the ideal tax regime? (For us now or more generally.)

Agree - would be interested to hear even your perspectives on your home state of Virginia. For example, lets say Virginia elects a new governor who wants to scrap the entire state tax code and asks you to design a new one. What would you focus on?

Tax all personal income, capital gains, dividends, and interest at 18%. Allow for an inflation adjustment to the cost basis of capital assets. Do not exempt or deduct anything. Wages will adjust (upward for the low paid, downward for the highly paid). If the government can't live on that, they can go suck eggs.

Easy question, tough answer.

Seems like it would be an obvious disaster. Taxing wealth heavily would hurt capital accumulation, reducing productivity and impoverishing everyone.

It would only hurt capital accumulation *above* whatever standard deduction was used. Below that threshold it would probably expedite capital accumulation, right? If the first $1M of wealth is exempt from taxation (along with income being exempt) then it's arguably easier for people to get to $1M. But harder to progress further after reaching that amount.

How much should my kid borrow to go to college if he doesn't know what he wants to do with a college degree? Assume he could go to UVA and borrow $7000 a year or to Kansas and get a full ride.

What would our economy and culture be like if we maximized GDP?

For example, pay no Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid for ZMP's, zero marginal product people who contribute negatively to GDP.
Would we care less or more about the ill, the old, the poor.
Would we push more solar energy or more natural gas.
Would we reduce or increase military spending.
Would government act like Singapore and target fields for investment.
Would we have engineers run the country.

How can we resolve a trade off between corporate taxes and capital gain/dividend taxes. One one hand low corporate taxes create a large incentive for self-incorporation, high corporate taxes make American business less competitive. Should we tax all income sources the sames? Should the sum of corporate and capital gain/dividend taxes be equal to the income tax and if it should be what should be the right proportions.

Should there be a tax on corporate income at all. For and against.

Is it out of place to try to identify which economic policies could be so outrageous so as to classify as punishable crimes against humanity?

Where we are in distribution terms relative to the optimal human capital acquisition? What are the drivers of this process?

What is the best way to improve the lives of indigenous people in the US and Canada?

You are curiously silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g. you strangely said to David Wolpe that you're agnostic on the issue of Israeli settlements). What is the best solution to this bitter conflict? 1-state or 2-state solution? How could this have been avoided in the first place? Which issues or opinions are under-reported or under-recognized?

He can't oppose Israel for obvious reasons, but he can't find it in himself to give it his full throated support in contradiction to his globalist persona.

Society to children: look to the future, change is progress, cosmopolitanism

Society to indigenous children: look to the past, progress is persecution, tribalism

If I wanted to destroy a people, I would do exactly what the government and schools do to indigenous kids today - a relationship akin to zookeepers and and their animals.

There is a literature on making better social media. Why do so many active social players ignore it? Refuse to go meta? I see little discussion and less serious design effort.

(People are down to guessing that Twitter just likes negativity because traffic. I hope that is not really the case.)

Quite an interesting discussion about how and why the merchant class sports Islamism.

Will the EU achieve its goal of full political union (United States of Europe), muddle along for a long time as it is, or disintegrate?

What books/ blogs/ podcasts/ other resources would you recommend to high school students interested in economics ? Where should they start ?

Top 10 countries all things considered (in order and with reasons).

Thoughts on Corbyn, since there's a reasonable chance he'll be the Prime Minister before too long

The biggest problem on Marginal Revolution is the racists in the comments section. Any time there is an article or post about or touching on a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of internet racists (such as the heritability of intelligence, immigration, the economic concept of "trust", etc.) you can be assured that the alt-right "race realists" will swarm and post dozens of comments that will crowd out discussion of anything else.

The best thing you can do for this site, short of banning these guys, is to segregate the racist bait into its own posts, so they don't disturb threads about topics such as those proposed above. IMO, the strength of this site is the wacky "markets in everything", "there is no great stagnation", "model this" stuff and the links to bizarre economics papers, not just because they're funny but because they actually do spark conversations about larger issues. It sucks when one of those things is posted along with an alt-right bait article and the discussion is dominated by steve sailer and his followers.

I may have a hobby, but I can string together a sentence about the greater good.

Oh yeah, and a massive ego. Sorry I left that one out before. thanks for reminding me.

So you guys are still stuck on "Russian hackers" made Trump president plotline? That and maybe Santa Claus is real too? Since we are in a democracy, I would say all opinions are welcome, comment section is for DEBATE. If you dont agree with a post because its racist I think you should clearly state it and argue why you think its nonsense, instead like most 2017 leftists, your approach is " a higher power should shut them up" .... the left is digging its own grave with this "soviet"-like mentality...

Too many people do prefer comments because they can push nonsense which would not stand a brighter light of day, but I don't believe a central authority is the answer, no.

And who knows, maybe the market will prevail. Maybe an innovator will find a way to promote truth and reason, and users will go there, for a better experience.

Until then, us good citizens will have to drop truth bombs where we may.

All you have to do is cite verifiable sources. That’s how we use sunshine to get rid of the nonsense.

Using a Vox subsidiary to show that liberals are angry does not prove anything.

Literally all you need to do is cite a leak showing Russia hacked voting machines. Just show us the leak. I don’t think it exists because it’s not true. Clearly you think it is. I’m willing to change my opinion based on the facts. However you seem fixated on 100k worth of facebook ads. If 100k of Facebook ads is your argument, then we need to indict every American. They work for companies that use internet marketing. Traitors !

The truth shall set you free. Liberals are running out of truths to use as a persuasion tool. That’s the real crisis. Now we’re swimming in bullshit.

NPR every day spends half the time talking about “troll factories.” I hope this is the limit of liberal stupidity. I lean that way due to favoring rationality. It’s advantage is rapidly disentegrating.

Ok, take it slow buddy.

Do you think that because it is from website X, there is NOT a Congressional hearing?

You would need a heart of stone not to laugh. Anon bemoans posters who push nonsense and then immediately starts muttering about Russia.

Not the story out today about Russia bribing officials (hello Clinton Foundation) to acquire US uranium, and the refusal of the FBI (hello former director Mueller) and DOJ to tell Congress about the crimes.

No, because that would be based on tangible evidence. Truth and reason, even.

I don't know man, it sounds like some of you are programmed at this point. You have let "Russia" become a switch for you. Personally I think the token "Russia" is attached to all kinds of things, some sensible, some ridiculous. To flip off your inquiry at "Russia" is to discard all discrimination.

I did see the Clinton Foundation story, and would like to see more reporting on it.

Even if it does cause trouble for "I stopped reading at Russia" or "Russia is our friend folk." Because obviously if this was an organized operation, even in that era, Russia is not our friend.

To be redundant, because some of you are missing it .. there are some missing gaps in the uranium story .. but even with what we know, it can't be just about the Clintons.

It has to be equally about Russian attempts to subvert the US government at much wider levels (whole committees?)

To come out of it saying "I hate Hillary but love Vladimir" is pretty whack, for any red blooded American. And yet

I also don't like all the fabian socialists.

Can we exile them, too?

Marginal Revolution needs a shot in the arm, and this could only of course come from an economic analysis of Hemingway and the introduction of creative nonfiction. While there are essays, biographies, memoirs, book reviews, movie reviews, very rarely are they creative. There is a lacking for creative nonfiction, which is more poetry than most poems and better than genre fiction, which has redacted literary fiction from the lexicon.

My favorite posts are usually about books and I'll often search the site to find reviews or mentions of certain authors. So I don't think you can go far wrong posting more content on books. I've never been able to find much about Kim Stanley Robinson here, btw. Why not? It seems like his worldview doesn't exactly mesh with this site's -- is that the only reason? I also don't seem to find many international novels mentioned, though maybe I'm not entering the correct search terms. Regardless, I've been reading mostly non-fiction these last few years, so whatever books are posted will be welcome. If you wanted to expand it, I always enjoy seeing the reading list for Literature and the Law, and I'd be curious to know what reading lists you'd create for other courses. I also like how CWT, TC will outline how he understands the career of the writers he mentions. The synopsis is often strange but still interesting.

I always enjoy references to obscure, by my standard, music, Straussian takes on film, and travel. Also, sports. The first post I noticed on any of these was probably the Blade Runner ones. Before that, Wonder Woman. So maybe these subjects have fallen off the radar.

I noticed that David Roberts got a link a few weeks ago. I'd enjoy seeing more content on climate science and policy. Sometimes, the best thing about this site is that it can help locate useful writers or sources of information. I was already familiar with David Roberts, but I'd say he's worth reading more often.

When TC published the last book, he did a lot of pods. Those pods often seemed to introduce subjects that TC was able to expand upon in conversation but that seemed new to me even though I've been reading this site for a long time. I particularly enjoyed the pod with Ezra Klein -- "what are your rules for x, y, and z?"

Sometimes I find a series of posts that were posted in 2005 and I notice that they're sort of fun ("Claims my Russian wife laughs at," for example.) in a way that the site rarely seems to have room for anymore. In some ways, I wonder if the audience has grown big enough that it's limiting what is posted.

Sometimes a thread of content is suggested but then abandoned. A recent post encouraged people to read more about religion, a subject that was then dropped and that, so far as I recall, never made it into a "what I've been reading."

A recent post linked to Matt Yglesias' unpopular opinions. I found that pretty fun. It might be more of a twitter thing.

Generally speaking, I really enjoy reading this blog. I'll post more if I can think of anything else. Thanks.

Great thoughts--many of which I, too, share! +1

I’m often disappointed in the answers people give to your personal Production Function question that you often ask in Conversations with Tyler interviews. The answers typically seem a little lame or at least poorly thought out in contrast with answers to other questions about their work, issues, etc., which on average tend to be excellent. Have you or other listeners noticed this? If so, what’s your theory for why? Culturally it’s looked down on to brag or seem self-aggrandizing so people are less practices as self-analysis? Or maybe productive people are productive because they don’t waste time thinking about their productivity :) If nothing else, do you think people simply don’t really know why they’re so productive or they’re not good at and/or unwilling to articulate it?

I'd be interested in discussion / data on why it (appears to) cost so little to bribe politicians. Menendez is currently in the news (this was a topic at dinner last night), but he's hardly the only one. Is there a significant variance by office, personal wealth of the politician, country, etc.?

Singapore - its future, political and economic, after LKY and potentially fairly soon, after Lee Hsien Loong. The ability of the system to handle such a transition without a strong hand at the top. Also with reference to Qatar in a Trumpian world.

Also in a recent post you mentioned you expect stress levels to be much higher in future in most scenarios - maybe discuss some of those scenarios.

You wrote in a early post on Bitcoin (2011-04-19) that 'it’s mostly a fun topic for the internet' and 'The new Bitcoin asset simply isn’t a useful one'. Has your viewpoint evolved on Bitcoin, and if so - for you - what changed? Whose opinions on Bitcoin do you most respect, even if you may not agree with them? Do you own any?


More than just Bitcoin, I'd like to hear what you think about the potential for smart contracts. (Maybe you could get Nick Szabo to come onto your podcast--he's a smart guy who has been thinking about smart contracts, currency, and other stuff for a long time.)

Which reminds me, it was largely MR which influenced me not to buy bitcoin around 2011-12!

What’s the latest on the short term/long term effects of stimulus and QE?

Your review of Affluence without Abudnance by James Suzman.

A theory as to why there has been such a rise in performance art in blog comments.

Generically, I'd like to "revisit priors" as it were. So, for example:

Just because Greece is no longer much in the news, what is an update on its status? And why has it NOT exited the EU, even though many, many pundits asserted this as almost inevitable.

ISIS is indeed in the news. How did this group transition from seeming to be just a sideshow, to becoming an almost existential threat to the world, to a fairly sad remnant of itself? What is the lifecycle of these sorts of entities?

In the world of finance, how do we "decide" what is important to "the market?" I recall in years past no one wanted to talk about anything except M1... then unemployment... then the national debt... then core inflation.... etc. etc. Do these things truly become more and less important over time, or do we just turn our attention to them in turn, and if so, why? Whatever happened to Grover Norquist?

I am reminded of the old New Yorker article, that asserted (only partially tongue in cheek) that almost every concept we could think of had a 3-year lifecycle... including the concept of the 3-year lifecycle.

"to a fairly sad remnant of itself?"

You don't know the answer to this? Seriously?

Its called bombs. Lots and lots of bombs.

One request would be whether there's any study or inquiry into the relationship between establishment Protestantism (i.e., historically oriented creed and confessional denominations) and male labor participation in the economically struggling areas of the U.S. Your commentary about the economic benefits of a possible religious renewal among non-working men (if one were to occur, that is) seems to overlook a big data point. That is, the areas of the U.S. in economic decline also appear to be hotbeds for low-church evangelical Protestantism (e.g., Pentecostalism, Free Will and Independent Baptists, Church of Christ, or the ubiquitous "Bible Church"). At the same time, more mainline Protestant denominations and traditional sects (to say nothing of Catholic or Orthodox congregations) are almost totally absent from the social landscape of these mostly exurban and rural communities. My guess is that these religious sects (that is, sects that stress personal conversion experiences without passing down robust historical experiences) are less effective at equipping people (and their children) for generational "secular" changes.

What's the best way to deal with cultural misogyny (cat-calling, unwanted touching, unwanted sexual advances, sexual assault, rape)?

What makes those cultural? What is added by calling them cultural?

Some of those are crimes. Cat calling is “merely” sexism.

Is it a crime to be misogynistic? Should it be?

I think you are a bit confused Ben, sorry.

He didn't say anything about what on his list was crime or not. He asked how to deal with those unpleasant things (increasing in severity, the last 2 being crimes). Maybe you're confused?

What does Economics have to say about sexual perversion?

How would massive wealth redistribution impact the economy? Suppose, in the vein of their already philanthropic mindsets, Buffett and Gates send every person in the country a check, eliminating their personal fortune. The value could be around $250/person if one of them liquidates, or $500/person if they do it jointly. Would this provide any meaningful long-term impact? Just it only be short-term? Would it make a difference if it were shares of their respective companies instead of cash?

What is the Cowen aesthetic philosophy?
You express frequent opinions on the quality of art and literature.
Please share some of your premises.

In what ways, if any, are you optimistic, or even somewhat hopeful, about what will result from the Trump presidency.

Was the American Civil War inevitable, or was there a more peaceful solution to end slavery?

Or even if a peaceful solution to the abolition of slavery had been found, was an American civil war inevitable to resolve the underlying conflict between state rights and a strong central government? Was their another issue so emotional as to spark the war as slavery was?

Last week saw a 52 mile backup on the Ohio River due to a lock failure ( The same lock that had been reported on by the New York Times in a long read piece last year. How do we fix the locks, what's wrong in the coordination game on this particular type of infrastructure?

Taking the last 15 years into consideration, how much of what you wrote in What Price Fame do you still agree with?

I believe that book has held up very well.

1. Net cost/benefits of patent and copyright.

2. The economics of manufactured housing (trailers and trailer parks).

3. The economics of homelessness in developed countries.

4. The economics of crime and poverty in the developed world. Why it persists in developed countries and why there are so many more murders even just by whites in the USA (and to less extent in Canada and to a greater extent in Latin America) than in Europe. Economic ways to address these problems with minimal disincentives.

+1 for both homelessness and crime/poverty. I suspect a lot of both has to do with the cost-shifting game played by different cities and even neighborhoods--try to get the undesireables (homeless, welfare recipients, small-time criminals, gangbangers) to move on down the road to the next town.

What (if any) weight should be given to robustness, in the face of accidental or intentional adverse events, in determining the degree to which functions critical to society are centralized/distributed? If robustness is important, how is that best promoted / achieved? How is cost (if any) best allocated?

For example, a fully integrated national power grid which which moves power across the country, but could be subject to a national grid failure, vs. loosely coupled small regional/local grids. Multiple manufacturing sources of important drugs. Multiple computer software ecosystems (for increased hack resistance).

Was "be kind, rewind" bad policy? If everyone did their rewinding pre-movie then nobody would have to rewind twice. Also the first person viewing the movie not having to rewind it (and the last person to watch it not having to unnecessarily rewind it) is pareto-optimal. I know it's not exactly timely but it still bugs me.

Good one.

Straussian discussion of Social Security and other pay-as-you-go systems?

I don't need Tyler's take on this one- you have convinced me.

That does, however, neglect the positive effect of a minor act of kindness on both giver and receiver.
Why would you measure a good movie viewing experience entirely through marginal differences in time efficiency ?

Good point; I did neglect the positive effect of the "act of kindness", but this was because I didn't see it as actual kindness, or at most, de minimis kindness. I see it more as conformity to an arbitrary rule, akin to walking on the right side of a sidewalk. If enough people felt differently about it and thought of it as real kindness I guess it could change the analysis. But without data I would guess that most people thought about it like me.

Does Special Ed work? Are there any RCTs that show a return on investment? California spends $12 billion a year, or about $20k extra for each of the special ed students - they are 10% of the school population.

What are things that economists don't pay enough attention to when proposing policies?

I'm thinking of things like revenue-neutral carbon taxes. They sound great in principle, but should the government also make sure that certain infrastructure exists to help businesses (and oil producers) to transition toward a lower-carbon economy.

Or consider consumption taxes. Most economists would much prefer to eliminate all income and capital-gains taxes and tax people on their consumption instead. However, administratively, that may be harder to enforce. The ease of enforcement of policies is something that economists don't usually think about.

Or take trade. Free trade sounds great in principle, but setting up an impartial court system to deal with disputes is a HUGE pain, often fraught with accusations of unfairness or too much burden for countries without the money to deal with litigation after litigation (e.g. Philip Morris and Uruguay, as chronicled by John Oliver)

I'm using these 3 examples to raise a bigger point - there are many policies that economists propose as Pareto efficient, but are hard to implement in practice because of many "blind spots" that economics doesn't usually pay attention to. What are the most common "blind spots" in the discourse of economic policies?

What are the key papers and findings regarding the impact of national aging curves on propensity to spend/ save and the implications for equilibrium interest rates? How much should we expect the aging of developed countries to affect those countries response to interest rate cuts? Should monetary policy take demographics into account when making policy?

When he was a banker, Andrew Mellon financially invested in the companies that became Gulf Oil, Pullman Train Cars and Alcoa; but today we treat banking and venture investing as separate skills and industries. Is this just an example of specialization increasing as the financial sector matures? Or has the nature of new business formation and development changed in the last eighty years such that bankers can no long effectively make equity investments in new ventures?

+1 to demographics. Demographic changes are fairly easy to predict (compared to many other social sciences), and have massive effects. I don't see them discussed enough. In short, what will the whole world 'turning Japanese' demographically mean for the global economy?

If demoraphics are so easy to predict, why will those who discuss this out to 2050, 2085 (the CBO in 2006), etc. be so laughably far off?

What would be the effects of really cheap and effective water desalinization? How realistic is that hope, and when should we expect to be deployed ?

How long until the college/university system collapses? Will the collapse be more due to technological innovation, overpricing, inefficiency of the current system, ineffectiveness of the current system, mismatch between supply and demand in the job market, opposition to cultural indoctrination, or something else? My kid is 5, so it would be really nice if we could move on to something better within the next 10 years or so.

Agree on the subject but instead Tyler should explain why it won't collapse due to the fact that it's all signaling.

Since the current system is mostly about signalling it won't collapse unless the labor market changes significant - basically there would need to be strong full-employment policies put into place so that companies become severely crunched for labor to the point where they are forced to stop playing the credentialist games and start accepting training from MOOCs and other sources on a large scale.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on the future of mexifornia.

I've been contemplating Michael 1938 Phillips' small book 'The Most Important Book in History' where he lays out the argument for modern commerce.

He divides commerce into three categories, trade (ancient buying and selling), clientry (lifelong service relationships such as with your dentist), and industry (geared toward reducing the cost of items through efficiencies and engineering). He included chain sellers in industry.

He asserts: "The presence of industry, particularly the head office of some industry, is a sign of modern commerce." Places without industry, though perhaps having lively trade and even clientry, just don't have the feel of modern commerce, nor likely to reflect the values of modern commerce: meritocracy, diversity, openness.

More opinions on the ideas he presents would be of value, I believe.

I should add one question I had was impact of the decline in industry in many areas of the US, with the commerce being mostly trade and clientry in those areas. Urban areas are losing industry, except for headquarters, and are mostly trade and services. The result is many do not have a real grasp of the value of reductions in production costs on the modern economy. Such things appear as price reductions that happened by "magic" or just because "it's the right thing to do" with no appreciation of the productivity improvements necessary to reduce the cost of products. In the past, at least some of the people in say Manhattan worked down at the factory and saw the changes first hand.

Many US companies exist solely to design and re-design products made in China. Industry is alive and well.

I also know many Chinese firms, who perhaps do some cost-cutting by using thinner material or whatever, but couldn't make a new product or tweak an old one if their lives depended on it.

I would divide industry into : production and design/development.

Do you think Americans divorced from production for several generations will still have the know-how to design and develop? Is there no connection?

The Toronto School of communication theory

How have your f2f teaching strategies changed over the years?

The effects of LinkedIn on minority employment. The link between online dating and interracial marriage got me thinking. LinkedIn combines professional and personal networks. One minority node can link to the people that person knows socially who would largely be minorities of the same race and to the people that person has worked with who will be of various races. It also widens the net for recruiters who search for skills. However, it encourages users to add a picture, giving racial information that could be excluded from a traditional resume, and which we know leads to discrimination. I want to know which effect is strongest.

Let's say we had to move the headquarters of the Federal Reserve outside of DC, and outside of Virginia and Maryland as well. Where should we move it?

Instead of discussing about crypto currencies without much detail like mainstream media is doing, it would be nice to get your opinion on blockchain technology that implement smart contracts and Turing completeness such a Ethereum and Neoshares.

The only request I have is to keep up your amazing work. I cannot express how much I learn by following your blog.


And the comments.

+1 to both of you

Definitely one of the best blogs and blog communities. In fact, the posters are remarkably diverse, not so much that there are people from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but that there are so many nuanced commentators in between.

Many sites become either echo chambers or battlefields.

Why do so many people (especially the media) still use the Dow Jones average, despite its well-known flaws and the availability of mush better measures?

I keep hearing that high schools need to teach more art and music. Personal finance. Statistics. Comprehensive world history. Civics, and economics. "Critical thinking." Coding and computer science. How to write a resume and interview for a job. "Happiness." How to fix a car and things around the house. Manners. Foreign languages. "How to learn." Many of these make sense to me at some level, but as I start listing them out (and there are many more that I didn't list, but seem to make a lot of sense to others) it becomes a pretty expansive curriculum when combined with what is already taught. And "what is already taught" seems to be crowding out both getting a job and all the "kids don't have time to be kids anymore" activities.

Would you suggest getting rid of trigonometry/chemistry/other subjects to make room? Or a longer school day/year (I'd count supplementing a traditional high school experience with MOOCs as being more or less this)? Do parents need to buck up and teach more of these things themselves?

How about getting rid of foreign languages? It's a way for people to signal "elite" status but otherwise pretty useless. For business use, foreigners will know English much better than Americans will know foreign languages.

Plus real time translation is almost here. But learning languages trains your brain to think in a certain way. It's kind of like advanced math (algebra, trig, etc), in "real life" almost no one actually needs to know those (calculators, computers) but teaching your brain to think logically and mathematically is vital.

" but teaching your brain to think logically and mathematically is vital."

You don't think math courses are more effective in developing this vital skill than 4 to 6 years of Spanish or French?

You missed my point. Learning math teaches a certain way of thinking, which is more important than memorizing the quadratic formula. Learning a foreign language teaches a DIFFERENT way of thinking, which is more important than knowing how to ask for directions in Paris. I was making an analogy, not suggesting languages > math for learning logic.

Oh, I read over "kind of like..."

I studied French six years and was never good in school, although we did read Sartre's Les Jeux Sont Faits (not a difficult book) senior year. I then spent three months in Guadelope where my French shot up only to have it drop when I no longer used it. I spent years in Japan where getting good took far longer and have no idea how my brain was retrained due to that but am agnostic. With more advanced spoken Japanese, I got a much better sense ove time of how more indirect speaking works but don't know how that helped my brain.

Is the weird particularity of the things one learns in high school, incompatible with its still being compulsory up to 16 or whatever it is? Or with its taking up 8 hours of the day at least?

How should we think about a $20 trillion US debt? How big a threat is it to the country's economic well-being in the short-, medium-, and long-term? Is "threat" the right word to describe the debt? If not, what's the better or more appropriate term? Are there cases in history where a great power has found itself equally indebted? What happened? Are these cases applicable today? Why or why not? I'm thinking here of Paul Kennedy's book, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. If that book were updated today, how would the chapter on the United States read?

This being the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, here is a timely topic for discussion between Cowen and friends: how are today's advocates of "disruption" like the advocates of "disruption" in 1917 Russia?

Tell us your unpopular opinions a la Yglesias

UK inflation has hit 3%. What should the BoE do given their current mandate?

Why is the start-up sector struggling.

Have the decrease in the strength of IP rights impacted that?

Can you quantify the the economic perceived effect/costs to the US as it relates to Scott Pruitts dismantling of the EPA rules as they existed under Obama?

The article below mentions cultural differences in truth-telling (to patients) in the area of bioethics. I wonder if you've thought more broadly about areas where different cultures may value truth-telling differently (and, if they do, why they do). In other words, how much of a cultural component is there in valuing truth-telling?

Do the "X unpopular opinions" thing on Twitter!

"X unpopular opinions filtered to carefully ensure that they're not *too* unpopular." Because nobody sensible is going to toss out a career-threatening or life-upending unpopular statement in a casual tweet. If they are going to make such a statement, they'll probably at least be careful to write a very precise explanation of what they believe and why.

I'd like to hear a discussion on the philosophy and morality of racial profiling by police and private citizens. Suppose that in a racially homogenous country, say, Lithuania there is a great depression. Since we are told that unemployment and poverty cause crime, we expect crime to increase*. Crime triples. How do you expect the police and private citizens to react? It would be reasonable to expect police to have a greater level of suspicion when investigating any given person. Business owners would be more attentive to possible shoplifters. People walking late at night would be more fearful when other people approach them.

It doesn't occur to you that this heightened level of suspicion is unfair to the Lithuanians living during the Great Depression, the large majority of whom are still not criminals, as opposed to those who lived before it. Nor, really, does it occur to you that it is unfair if young people and men are subject to greater suspicion, if pointed out you might say "everyone should be treated equally" but you have no sense of moral outrage when this profiling occurs. Why, then, is profiling by race treated differently? Should it be?

*This doesn't go through the formality of actually happening in real recessions.

CNTRL + F + "nuclear" , "Korea" yields zero hits (same as patents, but I've given up on that for this generation).

First strike by the USA USA USA! and the ethics / necessity thereof. Reference pacifist Bertrand Russell's advocacy of the same vs the USSR when they *first* got the bomb. Keep in mind this man when to prison in WWI rather than serve to further that war, so he was no hawk. Keep in mind I do not advocate a first strike once North Korea has tens or hundreds or thousands of operational ICBMs, that's folly of course. But now is the time. You do not want anybody unstable like Kim, even crazy pretend unstable, having hydrogen bombs. Look at the Vegas shooter. "Ordinary" people lose their mind all the time, and you're banking on Kim's advisors taking him out in a coup if he advocates nuking the USA. Not a smart move, as they may not be able to.

What is the equilibrium real interest rate (Wicksellian rate with stable inflation) right now? Do you have a forecast?

Sexbots, Tinder & future fertility policy implications.

Some things on personal development. I love that stuff and would like to to see your no-fluff pointers.

Plastics. Is the problem getting worse or better and what is the best way to stop it? In particular, single use plastic water bottles. Once banned at National Parks, I understand they are now back. Would love to hear your thoughts.

His chief thought about plastic seems to have been the canard that plastic bags are better than paper ones, or reusable ones, because they are cheap to produce. If he's so unfamiliar with the tangible, visible world that he doesn't realize that plastic bag bans are chiefly about the reduction of litter that must be picked up in the environment, then he probably has little to say of interest on whether it's efficient for national park personnel to spend time collecting and trucking plastic bottles out of their remote parks.

I don't know whether they're back, but at Zion some years ago, there were no single-use bottles at the concessionaire's, and there was a distinctly festive air at the bottle-filling station: it may sound stupid, but people seemed to enjoy filling their cup.

A post about all the national parks TC has visited might be instructive.

The Burmese government appears to have gotten away with their ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. As American economic power and willingness to intervene abroad declines, will ethnic cleansing become more common? China has supported the Burmese government's policy, and it won't be expected to care much if, say, the Kurds in Turkey or Iran are subject to ethnic cleansing.

Are multiculturalism and nationalism substitutes or complements?

Less liberal signaling.

Nothing else. Just less signaling.


Boo hoo. Tyler doesn't match your political preferences exactly. The door's right over there.

Practically speaking, have we abolished Scarcity? Do you see any downside to Satiety?

You don't cover Africa much. Its the last economic frontier.

We haven't heard from Tyrone in awhile. He must be chomping at the bit to talk about Harvey Weinstein.


I think Tyrone should be given at least one post each year to review the Nobel laureate(s) for economics, and perhaps also for the John Bates Clark medal winner(s) as well. I doubt that Tyrone has anything interesting to say about Harvey Weinstein.

Conversations with Tyrone interviewing Harvey Weinstein would definitely be worth listening to.

+1 for conversations with Tyrone

1. Which cryptocoin is going to win? Monero? Or will there be one for governments and one for humans?
2. Which country is the best haven for biotech?
3. Which biotech development is going to have the biggest near-term effect, telomerase activation or metabolic tinkering with epigenetics (e.g. NR or NMN)?
4. Is the deflect-an-asteroid-onto-the-winter-cap approach the last word in terraforming, or are the Titan activists right?
5. Which reactor technology is paying off best? Which company is farther ahead with thorium?
6. Is aquaculture going to lead to more seasteading? What is the future of ocean property rights? (Is Kiribati a major power in 2030?)

You are asking Tyler to discuss NR and NMN? Surely, you jest (grin).

Should GDP be corrected for birth rates and net child immigration?

No. Next question.

Do you have any thoughts on reform of American political institutions? For example, would the US be better/worse off with: a parliamentary system; abolishing the senate; electoral reform (i.e. proportional representation etc.), more than two major parties, a different division of federal/state jurisdiction, other changes to the constitution? You don't have to address these specific issues.

More political philosophy!

Tyler's analysis of philosophy topics is, dare I say, underrated.

Lists of highly insightful books and articles and papers he has read on all topics.

Gawd, could you narrow it down a bit?

I'd like to hear more about the process of doing what you call "GDP traveling." I searched your site and couldn't find detail on it. Basically I'm thinking a post like your theory of learning explaining conversations with tyler but applied to your style of travel. I'm thinking about doing a trip to Togo/benin and Ethiopia but given the quality of information online is low, I'm left with the question of how to structure such a trip and how to think out of the box of what sites to try to see. Have you ever tried to see factories abroad, if so how do you find out and then get in touch? Etc

I'd love to hear your reflections on a new book from UC Press: Sewing Hope: How One Factory Challenges the Apparel Industry's Sweatshops. Authors are:

Sarah Adler-Milstein is a worker-rights advocate and has served as Field Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Worker Rights Consortium.

John M. Kline is Professor of International Business Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is the author of four books, including the textbook Ethics for International Business.

The book can be found here:

I enjoy your brief but stimulating film reviews. More capsule reviews of classic films and perhaps some analysis of the economics of filmmaking that produced them would be most welcome.

Some of these suggestion are like multi-year dissertation research topics.

Maybe more reporting on what makes some people racist (or more racist than others), along with how social media and nudge theory can be applied to making people less racist and building social cohesion across racial lines.

"Maybe more reporting on what makes some people racist"

Could you define what you mean when you use that term?

Economic returns to various types of education. Vocational education in the High Schools (agriculture; carpentry; metal-shop; automobiles; etc.) Different programs in colleges by majors, by SAT scores (etc.) of those enrolled in the programs. There are all the usual intangibles arguments about the humanities, but in terms of the tangibles could we at least see more of the hard numbers? Engineering, biology, MBA's? Politically is seems plausible there will be at least some defunding of humanities programs in the near future, it might be a good idea to try to get ahead of the arguments that will develop over that. How does the educational structure of an emerging economic superpower, China recently, compare to that of the US or Singapore? What are some numbers for the long term trends in education in the US in terms of fewer enrollments in hard versus soft sciences? How does US education of high-IQ gifted kids compare to other countries? Is the US an underdeveloped country when it comes to gifted education? That can be put in the context of the importing of talent into Silicon Valley. Digressing a little - last night watched The Big Short movie about those who got the 2008 housing bubble right. It feels like the thinking in education has long been trapped in the same kind of thinking that created that bubble. Garbage loans, garbage education.

1. Are there any national infrastructure developments potentially as significant (economically, socially) as the Interstate Highway System on the horizon? Will it be developed privately, or is development by government required? Is the IHS the best benchmark for transformational infrastructure development?

With a nod to "small steps", are there significant infrastructure opportunities, albeit not at the level of the IHS; e.g. the cellular phone system (private) or GPS (public)?

3. In an optimistic scenario, what's the potential to reduce the cost of medical care via technology (nanotech, AI, biotech, personalized drugs, etc.)? What's preventing this? Is there any low hanging fruit?

4. Many argue that bio weapons will soon pose a greater risk, and greater proliferation problem (due to low cost and simplicity of development), than nuclear weapons. What should we be doing to mitigate this risk?

@Engineer, your #4 i think is backwards.. From what I've read, nuclear weapons are 1950s technology, easy to make. The hard part is getting the centrifuges, which are spinning at super-turbo speeds (> 100k rpm) and need special alloys to work. Of course ICBMs are rocket science but if a $50B a year economy like North Korea can do it, which is probably 10% the size of the greater DC area's GDP, then nearly anybody can. Engineering a weapons grade bio weapon is arguably harder to do than nuclear weapons; you would need an expert from Russia, South Africa (Hatfill*, recall 9-11) or the like, which are harder to get a hold of than a nuclear scientist I would imagine.

*Bonus trivia: "Today, Hatfill is an independent researcher and an adjunct assistant professor of emergency medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center.[8] He has criticized the response of health authorities to the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa and suggested that it is possible that Ebola could be transmitted by aerosol..."

You may be right today. Not sure that will be the case going forward.

With regard to bio-weapons, here's a Popular Science article from two years ago:

"Popular Science: What, in your view, is the biggest risk posed by bioweapons today?

Nicholas G. Evans: Today? Still nation-states. For now, I still believe that nation-states are the best equipped to produce biological weapons, and that their resources make all the difference relative to terrorist groups, individuals, organized criminal organizations, and so on.

That’s changing as the life sciences becomes more accessible, and more powerful, so in 5-10 years my answer will likely be different. Last year, for example, Science ran an expose on charges against scientists in Italy for illegally selling samples of avian influenza, and possibly even spreading it, to profit off the avian flu epidemic in Europe. That’s a little out of left field for what most people think in terms of biological weapons; still, when you start thinking about bioweapons as tools of extortion and profiteering—when there's money to be made in bioweapons—that’s when things get really scary."

I'd like to hear Tyler's thoughts about virtual reality. When will we see the first masterpiece of virtual reality of film? What will be its distinguishing characteristics? If it is true that "the medium is the message" then what is the message of virtual reality? How will virtual reality film stars and auteurs differ from today's film stars and auteurs?

Also, what impact will virtual reality and holograms have on live performances? Would Tyler attend holographic or VR broadcasts of a symphony or an opera? Or of a game of the NBA finals?

Economics of Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)

In the past you wrote about your adventures as an economic tourist in Lagos, Nigeria.

Do you have any other ideas for economic tourism that a reader may be able to take upon themselves and write about? (Yes, asking for vacation/travel ideas :) )

Also, I would be interested in Tyler in discussing the strengths and weaknesses of WEIRD countries vs. the rest of the world.

In a related vein, I would also like to hear Tyler's opinions about the "Benedict Option."


1) Why did crime fall so much in the 1990s and in general continue to drop? I do agree that Developed Nations in the early 1970s 'deciding' that abortion, the pill and better family planning was the primary reason. (Note the abortion statistically 'works' because it represents a time when birth rates fall and abortion political battle protected 'The Pill' as a political football that it was in the 1960s.)
2) Why do the smartest and hardest working nations have so low birthrates? Singapore the most obvious example but so include Germany? Does every successful nation become Japan evidently by becoming a nation of Grandpa Simpsons?
3) Here do you make conservative social issues without religion? If everything is decided by economics, where does religion come in?
4) Conservatives love vocational training and yet 80% of it in the US is terrible? How would you fix this?
5) How come charter schools with union teachers have the highest students scores? Is the self selection stats problem so big it is impossible to analyze school effectiveness?
6) How would you grow the economies of the Rust Belt. The current race to the bottom on wages has short term modest results.

"I do agree that Developed Nations in the early 1970s ‘deciding’ that abortion, the pill and better family planning was the primary reason."

Do you have any evidence for that assertion?

To be honest I have heard the exact great theory why crime declined after 1990 and I wonder Tyler thought on why this happened. Living in LA in 1992, NOBODY was standing after the LA Riots and our nation (and area) are on the verge of HUGE decline in crime that would last decades (OK through 2017 in general)

Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and John Donohue of Yale University argued, citing their research and earlier studies, that children who are unwanted or whose parents cannot support them are likelier to become criminals, and that there is an inverse correlation between the availability of abortion and subsequent crime.

However, it is true crime in the US continued to drop after 2000 even though the incidence of abortions started to decline in ~1981. So why do I accept the abortion theory:

1) Almost all developed nations had falling birth rates in the 1970s, legalized abortion mostly in the early 1970s and all had declining around 1990.
2) Battles on abortion made people like Ross Douthat accept legal birth control measures and make minor Hobby Lobby battles.
3) All developed nations stopped enforcing early marriage and kids in the 1970s. Notice as the age of marriage is pushed back, crime follows decades later as well.

In terms of stats, it is exceptionally hard to measure 2 & 3 so statistically abortion' sort of represented all three influences.

"Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and John Donohue of Yale University argued, citing their research and earlier studies, that children who are unwanted or whose parents cannot support them are likelier to become criminals"

The first problem with this theory is genetic confounding, children "unwanted" by their parents inherited their parents genes which affect their behavior much more than their upbringing according to twin studies. The second problem: how to prove that the rate of "unwanted" children being born really did go down? At the very same time you had abortion rates rising, you also had illegitimacy rates rising. Compare, also, how births among women 15-17 fell from 1960-1990, but by significantly less than they fell in the 15-44 age group.

You can claim that the mere existence of birth control and abortion makes children less "unwanted," that those children of unwed mothers and teenagers* must have wanted them more than those married people who didn't have access to birth control in the past, but that is circular reasoning.

As for the inverse correlation between abortion and crime at the state level, I think it's a specious one. As Steve Sailer pointed out in reply to Levit:

"For example, in utter contrast to your logic, the murder rate for 14- to 17-year-olds even in the low crime year of 1997 was 94 percent higher than it was for 14- to 17-year-olds in 1984. Yet, over the same span, the murder rate for 25- to 34-year-olds (born pre-legalization) has dropped 27 percent. (Click here to see FBI table.)"

Levit has never explained how abortion is supposed to have caused the crime decline of those born before it was legal, while having a lesser effect on those who actually experienced the period of its effect.

"Almost all developed nations had falling birth rates in the 1970s, legalized abortion mostly in the early 1970s and all had declining around 1990."

The falling birth rates and legalized abortion points are true, but when crime started falling varied so substantially. "Around 1990" can be plus or minus 10 years, in other words, useless for the purposes of analysis. Both birth rates and crime rates should be expected to rise and fall in a somewhat similar fashion across Western countries,(your claim is not true for the developed country of Japan) the fact that they do so does not imply that one caused the other.

"3) All developed nations stopped enforcing early marriage and kids in the 1970s. Notice as the age of marriage is pushed back, crime follows decades later as well."

I sense you're the kind of person who thinks that if not for the birth control pill we'd all be having infinity kids starting at 18 years old. Familiarize yourself with statistics on birth rates, illegitimacy rates and the age at first marriage in America, France, and Germany from 1900-2010. Again, "decades" is so vague as to be useless.

*It is true that if 18 and 19 year olds are counted in the teenage rate, it did go down, but they are legally adults and not really comparable to the 15-17 year old population. Many were married and intended to have children.

Again, I believe it to be Better Family Planning versus abortion and The Pill that is good cause of this. And it is long term directional here so I believe to be simply people having kids later in life, it will statistically come out in other variables. I bet if you did the age of men first marriage and ~20 years later crime rates, I bet you would get similar results.

Secondly, I have not heard a great provable theory of why crime dropped so much in the 1990s. Rarely in history have we seen such a good trend and yet I find the theories (gentrification, lead poisoning, abortion policy only, policing.) lacking in certain areas. Over the long term I do think gentrification did impact crime rates, especially in LA and NY, but these crime rate drops started in 1990 - 1995 and Compton gentrification did start until the 1997/1998. (In the case of Compton was Latino gentrification!)

1) It is nearly impossible to statistically decide whether a child is unwanted or the parents were not ready for somebody at 19. Long term, the babies to parents of 19, even wanted ones, has diminished and so I believe that has impacted long term crime drops. In modern society, 90% of people are not ready to have babies at 19 or so.

2) Again, I am more focused on family planning and late marriage/children not abortion so I am not surprised some detailed state or age analysis has numerous holes. These stats are messy so some holes are expected. Also Japan murder rates have always been low and much lower today than 1990 or 1980.

3) Long term centuries, aren't murder and crime rates less than were centuries ago. (Some of this emergency medicine though but I bet police are much better at identifying murder victims than 1900.) Also, looking at US murder rates they happen at a time of increased urbanization (1920s, 1970s both decades which had other issues.) and it might take a generation to adjust to new realities.

4) From the 20th the low point in murder rate in the US was 1957 which comes almost ~18 years after the baby bust of the Great Depression. Again it does not work out completely in stats.

4) The reality is all rich developed competitive nations except Israel, have low birth rates. This is not happening because the government decided in most cases although abortion and birth control give people more choices. Singapore is consider a conservative/libertarian haven and their rates are ridiculously low. Japan was the most competitive nation in 1980s with near lowest birth rates that has had modest increases since 2000. Germany has a low birth rate. Ireland did not become the Celtic Tiger until birth rates will around replacement level. Even India is at replacement fertility levels even though the poorer Northern areas with higher rates. This is happening natural without government choice. (except China)

I’ve heard you mention Ty Cobb on podcasts and would be curious about your general thoughts on Cobb, the possibility of another .400 hitter, and general areas of interest in the game presently.

If you believe in Sabermetrics, on base percent is more important than batting average, in which case, he appears catchable in principle (e.g Votto, Trout in the current era):

I'd like to read more of your thoughts on African economies and their development. The "development" industry and academe are, in many ways, set in their ways. My hunch is that development requires lots of big ideas and big dreamers that can shift people's expectations of what is possible. Yet a lot of development these days is about trying to uncover "true" preferences in order to provide preference-consistent solutions, instead of shifting those preferences.

In a nutshell, please write more about development. And visit more African countries. I offer to accompany you to Kenya, if you visit in August.

Why somebody as perceptive as you enjoys Star Wars. Better: how would you convince a skeptic not to leave the cinema after 45 minutes?

Can you do a review of the Culture of Critique by Kevin MacDonald? There hasn't been a good critical review.

As a young man, I saw segregated bus stations and drinking fountains. How many generations will it take before middle/lower class whites stop hating most Blacks? I assume minorities will relax also when/if that happens.


Upon what do you base your belief that "middle/lower class whites" hate most blacks?

Probably at least as long as it takes coastal upper middle class people to stop assuming that middle/lower class whites hate black people.

If you proved/disproved the hereditarian theory of race and IQ, how would you expect markets to react?

Wouldn't tell you much. If it reacted, it would be evidence that the market reacts to new information, if it doesnt, it will be evidence the market had already figured out what the correct answer is.

What practical business decision would change as a result? I can't think of one.

It might lead to legal or political changes, but I'm not too clear on how those would affect markets in general or any individual business in particular.

Please write more fiction reviews, generally. I think you have very good taste in fiction, which is rare among the fiction reviewing class (or at least very well hidden).

I went to see the Metropolitan Opera's broadcast of "The Magic Flute" to movie theaters last Saturday (inadvertently following Tyler's advice for listening to Mozart), and I was struck by how the entire audience seemed to be older than me (and I am not young). I would be interested in any thoughts Tyler had about the direction and future of classical music, and whether modern composers are ever likely to attract some attention.

More discussion of what "stagnation" means. Is it really so bad? Is a band that's good at making rockabilly music, and plays rockabilly music for forty years, stagnant? When you talk about stagnation, are you not more often meaning, we have got ourselves on a bad path, and can't see our way clear to getting off it?

I often see an argument online that goes something like this:

"We need to do more re-distribution from high income to low income people because low income people spend more, and high income people save more. Therefore that increased spending will increase AD and drive economic growth. If the money were only added to the coffers of the rich, it would go to waste."

See here for an example:

I'm curious of your take on this and whether it has merit. Granted, I typically see it advanced by non-economists, and don't much buy it myself, but it is repeated frequently among ordinary people.

Nuclear weapons in general. Are you optimistic or pessimistic regarding their implications for global stability? Why?

Should we rate historical leaders based on their intent or the results of their actions? In particular, was Ghandi a great leader because he was peaceful and meant well or was he a terrible leader because his economic policies left hundreds of millions of people needlessly impoverished?

This is a weird example for an otherwise good question.

I imagine Gandhi is considered a great leader for a)granting political independence (for a large chunk of the world's population) and b) providing a proof of concept for the utility of nonviolent protest for other movements - not for his economics.

Is there proof that Nehru and successors' policies were that influenced by Gandhi's weird hippy economics? Those economic policies were pretty common at the time internationally, even among western policy circles.

My first instinct was to ask for more posts that conformed to my pre-existing beliefs, but actually I think the most value comes from discussing topics where I don't even have a recognized belief. These posts are likely to have higher ROI on changing how we think.

I'd like to see more literature reviews. If I'm new to a topic, what are the best resources to read to get deep quickly?

Also, and this is directed at the world as much as you, I'd like to see more content that is obvious and straightforward and important (as opposed to content that is counterintuitive and signally and jostling for status). Obviously impossible to do strictly, but there is room on the margins.

Less usage of the word Straussian. Or else more explanation of why Straussian is a word worthy of entering the common lexicon.

Is liberal democracy a relatively short-lived anomaly, born of a period of unusual technological progress, and doomed if that progress stagnates, or if competing authoritarian systems appear more productive, or even if progress becomes so rapid as to become dangerous? Is there anything that those of us who have a sentimental attachment to democracy can do to prolong its life?

I want to talk about HSA's. Across the political spectrum almost every article on healthcare seems to end with "of course everyone knows the right solution is HSAs".

I think HSAs are terrible. Here are just a few reasons.

If you can afford an HSA, you don't need one. If you have enough income or prudence to have an "adequate cash reserve" (six months of expenses), then your cash reserves can serve as your health savings account. The tax incentives are free money, which everyone enjoys, but an HSA will complicate your life in lots of little tedious and boring ways (save those receipts!).

If you don't have adequate cash reserves, you can't afford an HSA. You don't have a broken furnace SA, a broken car SA, a lost job SA and a HSA. You just have a checking account. Putting some of that money in an HSA would actively destabilize your financial world. This year it is a broken leg, next year it is a broken car. Liquidity is really important if you are living paycheck to paycheck. And besides, you probably don't benefit much from the tax incentives behind HSAs anyway.

You can't "bargain shop" for health care.

Most people, your spouse included, will not understand HSAs and they will hate them. Their anger will be reflected back at you.

Do HSAs really provide the right incentives to drive competition in health care?

Weak analysis. HSAs are not a fix, they are a band-aid. Everyone knows this, and no one says otherwise.

HSAs are your government's way of saying "We have no interest in creating healthcare competition, because we are making an absolute killing off of the lack of healthcare competition. So, tell you what: we'll continue to rip you off, but we will not tax you on the money we steal from you. That oughtta hold you for awhile. What are you gonna do, turn this offer down?"

There is little access to inexpensive opioids in India and China. India produces opium for legal use, I believe China does not. Is there a way to increase the supply of opium for legal use in order to decrease the cost without catastrophic consequences?

Who are your favourite scholars from the other respective social sciences (political science, sociology, anthropology, and psychology)? Why and what can economists but wonks generally learn from them?

Who is the least complacent (in policy views or personal disposition) Republican? Democrat?

What is your opinion of Deirdre McCloskey? Over-rated or under-rated? By whom?

Request #1:

In your Conversations With Tyler episode with Larry Summers, he gave a bunch of reasons why he thought education had stagnated technologically. (His example of GE vs Harvard in 1950 and now was great!)

It seems to me that this is an amazing time for innovation in terms of people who are self-taught or want to learn more for their own interests. Khan Academy, Open Courseware, MOOCs, podcasts, Youtube, blogs, more and more papers being open-access--all make the world a friendlier place for a 50 year old who's curious and wants to learn about something without bothering overmuch about credentials.

The thing that seems pretty stagnant is the credentialing side of education. If you want to learn about something, it's not so hard to study whatever you like simply because you've decided to study it. But if you want to get the credential that says you've learned it, then there's a big bunch of overhead invoked.

My first guess is that the credentialing is both:

a. Intentionally exclusive--making it easy for ten times as many people to get degrees from Harvard might not be so beneficial for Harvard.

b. A natural place for parasites to nest--lots of administrative jobs and required classes and such are bound up in that credentialing function, and competition isn't so effective at getting rid of them since it afflicts everyone equally.

This seems true both at the high school and college level, but more at the college level. What do you think? You are pretty well-placed to talk about this, given the work you've done with MRU and your textbook and your podcast and blog, plus your position as a professor at a traditional university.

Request #2:

I've been thinking a lot about the overlap in social/internet media between advertising, stickyness/addictiveness, and social impact. Maybe this is my middle-aged grumpiness coming out, but it seems like a lot of social media have at least as large a negative impact as a positive one, in particular with stoking outrage and fear, and rewarding extreme views and angry voices.

I gather Facebook (and probably the others) spends a lot of time and ingenuity on ways to make FB more "sticky"--to get people to stay on longer and return more often. It seems like a lot of the techniques that work have a side effect of making people mad or amping up outrage, because that's a good way to get people engaged. And I gather that even respectable news sources now live or die on Facebook and Twitter references, which affects the kind of story and headlines they write.

What do you think?

More about: Venezuela, direct-to-consumer retailers, gentrification, effectiveness of economic sanctions, the economics of immortality in fiction (e.g., immortality is usually associated with low birth/creation rates), person you disagree with but have learned the most from, what it means to vote against your economic self-interest, secession and democracy, assessing good/evil in actions vs. intent. Thank you.

What do you think about your zero marginal product workers theory now?

How much of current economic activity consists essentially of consuming human beings themselves, such as by maximizing the monetization of their illnesses and frailties and addictions, or exploiting their ignorance or vanity, or their need for tribal identity?

Compared to the past, does the present stand out as being either more or less extreme in this regard?

Is such activity a necessity in societies that are, at least in some respects, at, or approaching, post-scarcity?

Swiss guns laws/guns related violence vs US guns laws/guns related violence.

It would be great to hear from you, partially as an professor, about the intersection of education, technology, and globalization.

I'd like to hear about theories of political action: protesting, voting, donating, etc.

Possibly related, I would be interested learning about control over party apparatus, the political economy of intra-party political conflict, and how party structure and institutions affect overall governance.

You commonly tout books on this blog. Do you receive any financial or other incentives (including free books) from publishers or writers for the books you mention? If so, what is your justification for not noting this when you mention such a book?

a movie guide. going through the history of cinema, with reviews like you did for balderunner 2049

"What would you all like to hear about? I do pay some heed, sometimes."

On why a fan of Julian Simon should be a Malthusian:

"Of course the optimists wish to have it both ways, but I say no, if you are an optimist about the cost of producing non-human resources, apply similar analysis to the cost of producing substitutes for humans. The classical economists were a lot smarter than they are given credit for these days.

For a useful conversation related to this topic, I thank Bryan Caplan, John Nye, and Robin Hanson, can you guess which one disagreed with me most?"

We never heard the answer on this. Enquiring minds want to know! :-)

Or, at least, what evidence would convince you that you were wrong? (I don't think you are, but I'd be interesting in reading about evidence that you think might convince you you're wrong.)

You have been privileged to know many people with extremely unusual intellectual gifts. If the world is overall drifting towards a worse situation, could any of them do much, if anything, to slow that situation?

For someone with only a few years of life left, please list the books which one must read before passing away on : 1) History of economic thought 2) economics and culture and c) Social science philosophy.

Thoughts on gun control

Over-rated and under-rated religious sects.

On a related vein, your opinion of the Bible (or parts of the Bible) as literature. Is it really "greatest story ever told"? Better than the rage of Achilles? Better than the Mahabharata?

What do you think, P Burgos? Tyler is very bright, but your opinion is valuable too.

Assuming that anonymous is Ray Lopez, I will take the bait. I don't really know much about the composition of either the Illiad or the Mahabharata, but from reading them (or at least substantial parts of the Mahabharata) they both appeared to have been intentionally crafted at least partially for aesthetic purposes. From what I know about the likely history of the composition of the Old Testament, most of it wasn't composed with all that much emphasis on aesthetic concerns. So the Indo-European epics have a greater value from an aesthetic point of view.

However, Isaiah is considered by many people who care to be at the level of the Greek tragedians, and the Song of Songs and much of the Book of Genesis are considered to be at the level of Shakespeare.

name the most overrated and underrated libertarian thinkers

Your best thinking on comprehensive policy reforms for healthcare, education, etc. Many posts allude to your thinking on the (de)merits of various policy positions or commentaries on various scholarly articles. However, I am aware of no comprehensive blog post outlining what you think is an ideal set of policies on health and education in the U.S.

Proposition (not a theory, not a fact): Countries with a federal structure (USA, Germany, Switzerland), seem to be doing better economically relative to more centralized countries (France, United Kingdom, etc).

Are there benefits to federalism? What is the optimum level?

What are the five greatest cities in the world?

It's probably not a subject you can address, but I'd be interested in a conversation about whether it is desirable (or even possible) to have an honest discussion about average genetic differences between racial and ethnic groups.

What do you think about the long-term relationship between China and Russia? Although they both have a common enemy now (an American-led, liberal world order), neighboring countries which are resource-rich, population-poor and economically declining (Russia) and resource-poor, population-rich and economically rising (China) strike me as natural geopolitical enemies. Thoughts?

Any thoughts on Amara's Law as it might relate to battery technologies; quantum computing; self driving cars; gene editing... ?

A life of action vs a life of thought.
The former - business, entrepreneurs, military, much government. The latter - academia, policy, most of the arts. We glamourize the former, the 'man in the arena', leaders and do-ers, that's where most money is made, yet is full of mundanity. The latter is more risky, and even monetary success may not bring as much social status, especially amongst men, and is full of triviality. Are people only suited to one or the other? Is the allure of tech to elude this distinction?
People who advise on the former (eg self-help) are often from the latter camp and lack experience. People doing the former who attempt to give advice lack depth of thought and insight.
William Hazlitt wrote an essay on this 200 years ago, no one these days seems to talk about this.

I'd be interested to know what you make of this:

There seems to be fear amongst media and politicians to ask certain parts of the community to police their own, maybe due to the fear that the Muslim community is very powerful at defending itself. Take for example grooming of white girls by different groups of Pakistani-origin men in the UK -
Further there are a considerable number of crimes (drug distribution, fraud, but generally not violence) where the protagonists have names that imply they are from the Muslim community. But have yet to see a study which puts this together.
I was on a roundtable with a number of senior politicians and I asked this question. The response was a collective look at empty sheets of paper in front of them!

Is there an optimal wealth accumulation? Broken down by Corporations, Governments, Individuals and even sub-categorised by the more obvious strata that exist with those broad terms.

I would like to read more about "what do we actually know about economics?"

Most of what I read lately is about how little we know about how the economic machine works and how most of what we thought we knew is probably not true, or at least not always true. Things such as the concept of equilibrium interest rate, the Philips curve, the quantitative theory of money, and now even Piketty's inequality come to mind.

Do you have any thoughts on the 1997 book "The Fourth Turning"? Apparently, it heavily influenced Steve Bannon's ideology. Given our current political stalemate and varying opinions on the direction of the country, perhaps it makes some sense to view American history through a cyclical, non-linear generational lens? Granted, America has had a relatively short history including only three 80 year cycles, but at least anecdotally, generational conflicts seem to be playing some role in the current discord.

One more idea. While reading "The Complacent Class," I wondered to what extent that text was purposely constructed to speak to (or be readable for) people regardless of their political agenda. By this, I don't mean that it has a message for everyone so much as it has a message that could speak to anyone. I've also noticed that this site is read by people of a variety of agendas. So I wonder what explains this.

At first glance, it seems to be that TC has purposefully tried to write to audiences with Kling's and Haidt's theories in mind. But maybe it's just that this site is old enough that TC has gained trust from his readers. And yet, I've begun to wonder if the hint of a Straussian intent behind the writing allows readers to search for a secret argument that they agree with.

An attempt at an explanation on this theme might be interesting.

That we live on the cusp of technological disruption is not in doubt. That politicians need to "do something" both to better integrate technology into political systems is becoming an increasingly familiar refrain. That they must also "do something" to prepare for, and cope with the fallout of, the negative externaities of technology adoption is becoming almost axiomatic. Very few people have specified, in both instances, what the "something" refers to, and there is certainly no convincing theory I have read on how a new technology-infused political system might look like. I would be interested in Tyler's thought on this - and whether he has come across any interesting deep research on this

There are 2 very interesting pie charts on this government web page about The Nation's Health Dollar ( One chart shows where dollars came from to pay medical expenses. The other chart shows where the dollars went.

The chart showing "where it went" indicates that 10% of the dollars spent went to prescription drugs, and 8% went to "Government Administration and Net cost of Health Insurance". Of this combined 18%, a large percentage is the cost of business (e.g., salaries) and a small percentage is profit. Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that 1% of dollars spent on healthcare goes to profit for drug and insurance companies.

Here's the kicker. The emphasis on reducing the cost of healthcare seems to be focused on shaving down the profits of drug and insurance companies. Obviously, we could cut the entire 1% and it wouldn't have a huge impact on the cost of healthcare. So, what's the real news story here? What would we like everyman to know? I have several ideas, but I'd like to hear yours.

On "The Ezra Klein Show", Bill Gates is very optimistic about technological innovation today. In The Great Stagnation, you said the opposite. Why is he wrong?

Leaving aside the normative question of whether Catalonia should separate from Spain, given that we are where we are now, what are the best strategies today for the Catalan and Spanish governments?

The Catalan government seems to not be sure quite what to do. The separatist left thinks it should have already declared independence, the moderate and conservative part of the nation/region is uncomfortable with the short-and-intermediate-term consequences of separation.

What Catalonia wants is quick and painless transition to a fully recognized state within the EU. But no other government wants to aid them in that transition. So they need to change international opinion in favor of allowing that to happen, and the way to do that is to make Madrid look like an oppressive regime. The Catalans seem to be playing a kind of orchestrated repression game, where Catalonia nominally proceeds with democratic actions, and Madrid responds with ever-more repressive tactics. To the extent that this makes Madrid look bad, the goal is to win international hearts and minds to their cause and eventually achieve an EU-mediated resolution process.

Spain wants to maintain the status quo, except that it needs to resolve the separation question forever. Right now, it seems to be forcing a confrontation, which if everyone plays along, might achieve its aim, but if there is resistance (say the local police forces refuse to submit to Madrid authority), it could backfire.

If I were Rajoy, I would play cheerful and stubborn in public, emphasizing the poor process of the purported referendum, while waging economic war in the background. I’d do everything I could to appeal to the economic interests of the Catalans, while speaking to the moderates in Catalonia about culture-tolerance and openness.

What say you?

I would like to read commentary about alternatives to government-monopoly fiat money? What would a competitive market for money look like and what is "free banking" all about? (I have heard the phrase "free banking", but I have not read any clear explanations of how it provides a competitive medium of account.) I am particularly interested in money's role as a medium of account, rather than medium of exchange. I have trouble envisioning what competitive media of account would look like --- would different prices and wages be quoted in different currencies --- but maybe that's because I have only lived in a government fiat money environment. How, if at all, could a competitive market for money be structured to mitigate the impact of sticky nominal wages and the resulting instabilities in AD?

1. Herbert Gintis' last book: Individuality and Entanglement.
2. General views on political theory.
3. Steven Pinker's new book about Enlightement.
4. Optimism?

What do you know about how public bureaucracies improve over time? We can say that in this moment in time, public bureaucracies in the OECD are structured in this way, employ these types of people, and do these kinds of things. But how did they get to the current state? What is the pathway for Ministry of ABC in India to become high-performing? Should development agencies (e.g., World Bank) have a role in this? Or must everyone learn to ride their own bike, a book on bike riding does you no good?

I'm late to the party here, but I'd be curious to know something about the readership of this blog. How many are economists? (& age, politics, etc.) Have you ever considered a demographic survey? Do you even care?

Anthony Bourdain on Conversations with Tyler.

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