Assorted Thursday links


1. "A dumb person's idea of a smart person." I prefer this: "He is at once the truly clever person and the stupid person's idea of the clever person."

Bitcoin has gone the way of rayward, the inventor of the scavezzatrice. Rayward's creation myth centered on the flawed capillary tract in the roog plant. There is a monument of Rayward that is maintained at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, a bronze statue of a bearded man with a spiked hairdo and elephantine ears, like those of a vulture's wings. He holds a rababa in his hands. A testament to his foresight into the great Jim Thome.

3. LOL

I call p-hacking on #3.

Charlie rose looks like an infant-adult. In his talk with David Foster Wallace, Wallace gives credence to his backhand which he hit and Amanda missed. In this case, Wallace has asserted himself as a Rastafarian.

5. Just no... someone deciding to take drugs and dying isn't the same as someone dying in a war. Plus the author doesn't count the 300-500k Iraqis that died in the ensuing war either. The broken men and women that didn't get killed... the trillions we owe on the war. The rise of ISIS because of it.

I get the point but the comparison can come across as saying, "See, Iraq wasn't that big of a deal." With drugs the solution is pretty simple. Legalize and let them use under medical supervision. The solution for Iraq was not to do it in the first place.

Legalization for recreational use is not going to stop people from overdosing on opioids. The solution is not to start using them in the first place.

I seem to recall a report showing that states that legalized medical marijuana had lower rates of opioid abuse. That would indicate that marijuana use displaces opioid use. Not all (or necessarily most) of those who die from using opioids are junkies -- they are people with chronic pain problems whose doctors have prescribed very addictive and dangerous drugs to handle their condition. If those people were prescribed marijuana instead, there would likely be fewer deaths from opioid abuse.

Legalize pot? Sure. But we are talking about some pretty deadly stuff here, like fentanyl which should only be administered under the direct supervision of an anaesthesiologist.

ISIS didn't rise because of the Iraq war. It rose because of the collapse of the Syrian regime in major parts of Syria due to the civil war. Our half-hearted dithering interventions - sometimes supporting the Syrian opposition, but not really trying to heard to help them win, were a minor contributor to that clusterfuck. The Iraq war was possibly another contributor, but the so-called "Arab Spring" was a much, much, bigger one. Let's not forget that the whole Syrian uprising was one of several Arab Spring movements that started with Tunisia - and only Tunisia seems to have resulted in anything positive.

You are missing the proper analytical framework for this: Syrians, and human beings generally, don't actually exist except as an appendage to politics in western countries -- especially the US.

It's not possible for Syrians, or events in Syria to have caused ISIS or anything else, since none of those things actually exist. But ISIS atrocities on TV screens *do* exist must have been caused by something that exists. The Iraq intervention is the obvious candidate (the apparently large tracts of time and space between the cause and effect don't exist, as I have already explained).

The proper framework for this is that America is responsible for everything. And Republicans are responsible for everything bad.

Iraq Body Count says 268,000 Iraqis have died violently in the 14 years since the 2003 war. That compares with 900,000-1 million who died violently during Saddam’s 25 year reign.

That’s a violent death rate of 40,000 a year under Saddam compared with a rate of 19,000 a year post-Saddam.

The ISIS invasion in 2014 killed 100,000 people in three years and displaced 4.5 million. That’s a far higher death rate than during the Iraq War and yet no approbation falls upon the US decision that triggered the invasion - the removal of all US troops in 2014.

I wonder why.

Chip, that's some seriously f*cked up logic.

The ISIS invasion of what? Syria?
Also us troops were withdrawn from Iraq in 2009, not 2014. How is it that so many people seem incapable of remembering basic facts of events that occurred less that 10 years ago?

" approbation...I wonder why."

Because it is taboo to criticize Obama.

6. Tweeting doesn't help anyone's reputation.

The bathroom wall of the internet. I think it's more like no one cares unless you are in a cloistered bubble of giving a fuck about twitter; case in point, of course, @anecdotal.

I would love to think that university administrators are running scared of the thought that one of their staff will tweet something and it will end up on CNN.

But actually they probably have teams of lawyers ready to deal with precisely just a situation - by firing everyone in sight - and most academics are too gutless to say anything interesting anyway.

3. Oh pulleeze

5. Claims every year of life is worth an average of $100,000. Author applies this regardless of age, so presumably it's a lifetime average since he uses it that way. So a 2016 US population of 323 million should have a $32+ trillion annual production of goods and services.'s looks like something doesn't add up.

I don't see how the value of life would be so directly exactly tied to GDP.

Per the author:

The traditional monetary value of a year of life in cost-benefit analyses is $50,000, but a more reasonable contemporary value might be $100,000. If so, then the value of a -0.1-year change is

-400,000 years/cohort × $100,000/year = -$4 trillion/cohort.

How big is that? Well, the value of goods and services produced annually in the US is $19 trillion. The total value of US real estate is about $30 trillion. So the monetary value of a small change in life expectancy for a single cohort was within one order of magnitude of astronomically valuable things such as the stock of US real estate or annual US GDP.

Okay, economists, I know you've a reason but why does the value of a year of life go up with the supply of "years of life" having greatly increased in parallel with population?

#5 in a rapidly aging population like we have in the USA isn't grouping people in 10 year age groups going to introduce error into the calculations?

On the current drug epidemic, how about we legalize it all and hope that some company makes a drug that will make users happy but is difficult to OD on?

There's a massive financial incentive for an OD free feelgood pill to be developed under current legislation, imo. Alcohol, nicotine, and I suppose marijuana do a pretty good job of it anyway. It would be interesting to speculate if the war on smoking caused the opioid epidemic- seems like a demographic match, at least.

4. Poor Donald, forever doomed to seek self-worth.

1. The real magic of bitcoin was to come up with a scheme that leverages believer's enthusiasm to increase in popularity, and therefore in value at the same time. A secondary thing was that it managed to dress itself up as something for small people, where everyone has a stake, when in practice the long term dynamics are all about huge players with a lot of capital.

We've had multi-level marketing for a long time. It spreads by making sure that everyone that buys in needs to find more people buying in to make profit, so it spreads quickly. The problem with those schemes is that ultimately what is being sold costs far more than what it's worth compared to the competition, so a lot of people become losers, while a few become winners. Bitcoin also becomes more valuable if you convince other people to buy in, but it doesn't has an obvious step where the majority of people who buy in become losers.

Nowadays, this kind of forces are being harnessed everywhere. Look at kickstarter:Successful campaigns have bonus tiers that provide incentives to anyone that considers the current deal to be good to try to convince other people of this, because it will lead to higher reward levels for everyone, which in turn makes it more likely for more people to buy in. A classic example is in miniatures: The hard part of making plastic or metal miniatures is making molds, which are a fixed cost. After a certain number of miniatures reuse the same mold. the profit is high enough that it makes sense to offer more, different miniatures for free, which start the cyle again. Without bonus tiers, those projects were always small. The bonus tiers lead to beating the kickstarter limits by 100x, and ultimately far more profit for the entrepreneur.

We also see the same thing in technology tooling: Investing in features that will raise enthusiasm, and increasing the marketing budget, is far more important than features that will make the product good. It's better to build something popular built out of bubble gum, and then spend the engineering money to make it good, than to build something small and solid that will just not be attractive enough to grow. See MongoDB, arguably one of the worst tools of its kind at launch, but popular enough to built itself a runway into being something that isn't completely shameful. Competitors that went in the other direction are out of business.

#2. This is going to be problematic because of the number of people who cannot get credit or debit cards, due to poor credit history or not being able to maintain a bank account. Believe it or not, there are some people who can't maintain the minimum balances needed to avoid paying fees to keep their account open (or avoiding overruns etc.)
Maybe that's the point - you can discriminate against the dregs of society by refusing to accept cash. But that's going to include disproportionately members of ethnic minorities, plus people living on disability, plus generally people who may have fucked up their credit in the past but are trying to get back on their feet.

If it is so problematic go firm your own company. You'll make a killing!

Make sure to post your wealth on Instagram, I'll be so jealous.

Hazel, you are no longer pretending to be a Libertarian?

Libertarianism is not a political philosophy that revolves around being a douche to minorities, or anyone else.

s libertarianism good for anything other than ideological preening? It apparently is useless for encouraging entrepeneurial libertarians to extend credit to ethnic minorities, the disabled, and bankrupts.

I have no idea what you're talking about - libertarians are totally in favor of deregulating banking and letting anyone lend money to whoever they want. We're also opposed to laws against "payday" lending which is one of the few sources of credit that poor people can access. We're also opposed to commercial banking laws which raise the cost of carrying small bank accounts (i.e. laws banning charging overdraft fees in many circumstances), which are probably responsible for mandatory minimum balances these days. So yeah, libertarianism does offer lots of mechanisms for encouraging entrepreneurs to offer bank accounts to poor people. None of those proposals happen to be laws right now.
(And this isn't even counting some of the wierd left-libertarian savings mechanisms that exist. )

There's a reason "libertarian" sounds like "liberal." The former term is taking the same voyage of redefinition as the latter.

It may be taking a voyage of redefinition, but not in the same direction as "liberal". It's going where liberal used to be 100 years ago, and away from the alt-right position, in which "liberty" involves an inviolable moral right to kick black people out of your restaurant, but not one to hire a foreigner or buy products made in China.

As the article noted very poor people probably are not the customers for these restaurants. And in any event as we buy more and more on the internet the need for electronic payment will just increase.

What I think is strange about the report is that it seems to say you can only pay with credit cards, what about debit cards? Are they not common in the US?

I'm assuming that when they say credit they mean debit as well. That's why you need at least a bank account. Lots of people can't get credit cards. A smaller number of people don't have a bank account - primarily because they are unable to maintain a minimum balance to avoid paying fees. Without a bank account or a credit card none of the online apps will work. Maybe bitcoin, but I doubt many of the people without bank accounts will manage a bitcoin wallet either.

Anyhow it might not be a problem right now, but if lots of businesses go cashless, people are going to start noticing the exclusionary effect of that. It'll probably start arousing resistance, as most people don't like to be seen to be patronizing businesses that are socially exclusive. It's a good point that more and more stuff is bought online, and I wonder if that will eventually have similar effects. Are we going to end up with a segment of society that is locked out of online commerce? This is the sort of social inequality that is more palpable than mere income differences. If there's one group of people who live in a cashless world and another group of people who live in a cash-only world how is that going to impact economic and social mobility ?

3. Alternative hypothesis: Infidelity is rampant in the "fragile families" in their sample. Parents who aren't faithful are worse parents along other dimensions. Child-father resemblance is simply a proxy for infidelity.

5. Therefore, life-expectancy at birth is an uncertain predictor of how long an infant born today will live, although we do not have a better one. However, it is a good summary measure of the current force of mortality across the lifespan.

No, we don't have a better one. And this one isn't just uncertain, it's meaningless. This is simply playing in a statistical sandbox. We all know that it's unfortunate in a number of ways if someone overdoses on a drug, gets killed in a car accident while texting or succumbs to parachute failure. We don't know about, however, until after it happens.

What exactly is the legal situation for anyone who wants to accept payment but not accept cash? I mean people have always done it, but it also seems to run counter to the concept of cash as legal tender.

So if a customer insists on paying (say) their phone bill in cash, I guess the phone company can do self-help like canceling service and trashing the guy's credit rating, but they can't actually recover the debt without accepting the cabbage. What would a restaurant do in a similar situation?

They explain this exact point in the article.

Once you owe someone a debt, they have to take cash for it.

Before you actually receive the food at the cash register at one of these places, you don't owe a debt. So you can negotiate a non-cash option at that point between you. If you don't pay at that point, you typically don't still get the food. :)

So in your example, the phone company couldn't forbid you from paying cash for a debt you already owe them, but if it was a prepaid style of service, then they could require a non-cash payment up front because you haven't incurred a debt yet.

#4 interesting. I do agree that wealth above 8M does make one happier, as many concerns fall by the wayside. However, similar events occurred at 1M. So I'm somewhat dubious.

As for self made people bring happier, IDK. While there is a real sense of satisfaction being self made, the scars of early poverty are last a long time. Perhaps they are taking of those that rose from middle class to success?

#4 They mention the effects are small in the abstract, and they certainly are small.
On a 1 to 10 happiness scale, difference between the lowest group ($1-1.9m net worth) and the highest ($10m+) is .05 (table 7).

Note the effect from being retired is about twice as high (about .09), and the effect of age and age-squared is about .10 in total. The coefficient for being married is about .10.

No surprise: for those who have enough money, being retired and married makes you a bit happier. And being retired and married may be more important than whether you are a bit rich or a bit more rich. (They didn't study the poor.)

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