Friday assorted links


Regarding 4, pretty sure VidAngel was targeted at Mormons. It was started in Provo, UT and the only people I've ever head mention it were Mormon, so that's going to massively skew any results from their dataset. Tells you more about Mormons than consumers in general.

I think this is right. I miss VidAngel, though.

I wonder if this explains "dink" as one of the most frequently muted words? This seemed surprising. Wikipedia says it's slang for the male member but it hardly seems the most common term for that, maybe it's more common among Mormons?

'dink' is a racial slur referring to Vietnamese, but is sometimes aimed at other Asians as well. You can see it used in this sense in the movies 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Street Kings'.

Thanks, this meaning doesn't really show up when you google it

#1 So delayed gratification is proven correct. Also water is wet, the sun rises in the East, and your momma is still fat. News at 11.

#2 As it mentions in the article the push at the state level is having success, and that is absolutely where the push should be coming from in my opinion.

#3 My experience has found that perfect meritocracy works very well with jobs and functions requiring extreme technical skill and craftsmanship, especially functions where the work is done with one's hands.

#4 I would mute the word "to", "too", and "two." Should make things interesting.

#5 This. Absolutely. Also, bucket lists are cliché but I believe the prioritization is the key to avoiding regret, not the percentage accomplished.

1) "Delayed gratification proven correct"? Kind of a big deal if you ask me. The fact that the ability to delay gratification is a larger predictor of income than race, height, etc. The question now is can you teach it? Or is it some innate quality baked into your psyche through genetics and your upbringing? I have heard lots of people who come from low-income, paycheck to paycheck (or welfare) households who say they have grown up, have security in money, but still go out and blow their paycheck when they get it. They know it's not the right thing to do but they have to focus real hard to not react that way.

1) What is to say the causal arrow doesn't point the other way? This is my first thought, even before the idea that delayed gratification causes high income. Having a high income allows one a much greater degree of control over finances and will power in general. Not to mention that, "In this case, all rewards were hypothetical, but participants were asked to answer as if they were real."

Just read the methodology and try to tell me that having a high income wouldn't allow you to score better here. "... participants were asked to make choices between a smaller sum of money offered now versus a larger sum of money (always $1,000) offered at five different delays. The initial immediate reward offer was $500 for all delay periods. The delay periods were 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, and 1 year."


This is a great example of why social scientists are not smarter than epidemiologists and need to learn to draw diagrams.

Yeah I had the same thought... this experiment was designed in a way that causality is just as likely one way as the other.

If I'm poor and need money to fix the CV joint on my car, I'm gonna take $600 today over $1,000 in one month, or six months, or a year. No brainer. My discounting of the future would, in that case, be an effect of poorness, not the cause of poorness.

The authors very clearly state:

"First, it is important to note that our study was cross-sectional and therefore cannot establish casual directionality between delay discounting and income"


"Whether discounting rate is a trait or a more mutable state variable is under debate"

Also, they cite this 2011 study from Science regarding the possibility of interventions: "Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science 333, 959–964. doi: 10.1126/ science.1204529

To me your hypothetical begs the question, why didn't you delay gratification enough to build a buffer against such an eventuality? Did you not understand that the cost/risk of having literally $0 is very high? I'm not trying to say "don't be poor", but having the willpower to maintain an emergency fund seems to be something many people fail at, not necessarily because their unavoidable expenses outweigh income, but because they spend money when they get it, as a rule.

Of course in ability to delay gratification is a reason why some people are poor, if you don’t study as a kid and instead play computer games you are very likely to be pooer than the kid that did study. Or if you leave work to go to the bat vs staying and completing your job.

Good point. I guess you would have to measure someone's ability to delay gratification across time (from early teenager to mid-40's) to see if that "skill" grew stronger over time as their income rose or if it was originally strong before money even came into the picture.

I made a comment some days ago on Stoicism on Tyler's post regarding cynicism and fake news, but I feel it's related here. I think it is possible to teach self-denial/delayed-gratification but it is very difficult and requires persistence and no small amount of isolation from the modern "have it all, post-scarcity" global society we have built. I absolutely believe genetics and culture are involved as well. Those are even harder to change.

Regarding the teaching of it, I'm a big believer in reducing the consequence "lag time" between causes and effects. If it was possible to make the accumulative reality apparent immediately to someone using something they understand I think it would receive a more positive response.

This is a crude example, but I tried to explain taxes to my baby sister (Junior in college...Bernie supporter) when she was buying a car by telling her that if we assumed very conservatively she had made approx. $5000/year since she was born and didn't even include payroll taxes, just sales tax for most states she would have been easily able to buy 2 cars that day instead of one. That seemed to have some effect.

I like the way Warren Buffett said it too. Something to the effect of, "....If you think you're mad at my tax rate on capital gains wait till you see the money I accrue through compound interest. You'll sh*t bricks."

5. The ironic deathbed regret is that I had spent more time at the office (or writing, reading books, giving lectures, etc.). It's ironic because it's the opposite of most people's death bed regret, which is spending more time with family, watching sunsets, relaxing with friends, etc. Cowen: "The best path for a life is not regret minimization... it's something else." Yes, spending more time at the office, writing, reading books, giving lectures, etc. In other words, being productive. Even in death these guys can't give it up.

"I own," he says. "Yes, that is good enough."

One of the in-house critics of Trump indicated that Trump has no moral compass. None. I suppose having a moral compass hinders one's ability to choose the most productive path. And as I understand Trump, his only pursuit is personal gain. Think about that combination: no moral compass and greed. It's the perfect combination in some quarters. No life regrets there.

I think it obvious that DJT has a very strong moral compass - it always points towards himself. But anyway, give the guy a break - he's 72 years old, for gosh sakes!

By "no moral compass," that author seems to have meant "no strong ideological foundation." Trump might even be willing to engage in "bold, persistent experimentation," which no conservative could support, since we already know all the answers. Greed plus an absence of preconceived ideas may indeed be a good combination when it comes to making money.

I just think it's amazing that a guy with absolutely no morals or care for anything other than himself, who was actually elected by Russians and who is so stupid he can barely feed himself.... has somehow managed to give the USA its greatest economy in DECADES, including record-low unemployment for minorities, and skyrocketing retirement accounts.

I mean, what are the odds?

The best explanation I've seen:

"He wasn’t capable of getting it. He was emotionally stunted. Broken in some way and unfixable. He didn’t know how to listen. He didn’t know how to lead. He didn’t even know what questions to ask and he wasn’t willing to learn. And so he lived a life of loud misery.

He never figured out that he was the cause of all of his problems."

Trump's deathbed regret will be "Why did I pick a mentally retarded, dumb Southerner for Attorney General?"

There were some quotes about Trump thrashing Marla Maples' family for being stupid Southerners as well.

You would think this stuff would catch up with him, with just a bit of light political advertising.

Trump doesn't like elites who aren't real elites, by that rich, and doesn't like stupid Southerners.

Who exactly are his base?

His base are Internet commenter trolls.

1. The authors' measure of delayed gratification is just a series of "would you rather" -- people didn't actually get paid immediately or at the end of the interval (unless I misread, in which case I apologize). So it's more like a personality quiz around a math problem than a true measure. I think they just have a fuzzy measure of intelligence there. They authors' try to control for intelligence by using education level, which I imagine wouldn't fly with this blog's readership.

s/They authors'/The authors

I think the authors just found a different way to package "intelligence + conscientiousness".

The authors cited a source that states hypothetical choices in a delay discounting task yield no systematic differences than real delay discounting tasks.

The authors also said the one day/one week delay intervals didn't have any predictive power... which to me says most people will hypothetically chose to wait a short period of time.

The interval with the most predictive power was one year... in one year, a lot can happen and it might really be more helpful to have that money in hand if you are living paycheck to paycheck as many Americans are.

Of course rich people won't care if they have to wait a year, they don't need the money now and won't need the money in a year either. It's just a number for them.

1. Is it possible the authors have the causation backwards? Someone who struggles to pay their bills would rather take the money now to survive until tomorrow. Someone who is already set can afford to wait for the higher return down the road.


Yup, and I am not finding their attempts to justify a causal interpretation in the final section very persuasive.

Corollary: The way to ensure a class of people is dependent on you is to ensure that they must meet critical short-term goals with regularity and cannot afford to plan for the future.

2. Euphemism: the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. For example, school choice as a substitute for school segregation. Why don't people say what they mean anymore, with political correct speech on the left and euphemisms on the right. School districts with a cross section of children by race, ethnicity, income, etc. have solved the dilemma of high achievers and low achievers by operating two schools on one campus, one school for the high achievers and one for the low achievers. It works in my low country community. Well, it works for the high achievers. Some parents object to this "solution" because it means the high achievers must interact with low achievers, and what's wrong with the low achievers might be contagious. It's comparable to riding public transit with infrequent bathers, which has limited support for improvements to public transit and, instead, shifted support to self-driving cars. Why would one send her children to one of those schools with the low achievers in a self-driving car? What one prefers is "choice".

I thought most of the school choice debate involves charter schools within minority majority communities?

It’s more - certain minority parents choosing to escape violent and failing schools within their district

And less - white/Asians segregating via charter schools

Your argument is more of a clarion call for forced busing than against charters.

Bing. Absolutely. If you don't think there is racism within minority communities you're asleep at the wheel (not you personally Hmmm...figure of speech).

It is a well-known-but-not-publicly discussed fact within the black community that there are "good" blacks and the others that are described with a certain term. Minority populations are just like everyone else and they want the best opportunities for their kids. Having your kids in an environment where it is virtually impossible to learn (and may even be lethal), even if it happens to be ethnically homogenous, makes no sense for them as anybody else.

Wait, acknowledging that there are good and bad individuals within your own race is now called "racism within minority communities"? Even if you are talking about the use of that particular word by Chris Rock, for example, it seems a little Orwellian to call that racism...

Classism more like?

I wish it wasn't the case, but yes, it is. The Michael Brown/Ferguson affair perfectly illustrated this when any number of African-american talking heads came out in support of the police or opposition of Michael Brown's behavior and rapidly denounced/unpersoned by people within their own communities.

Acknowledging anything other then the prescribed script regarding bad behavior within the black community can and does "un-black" a person among some of its members.

I think his argument is more for de-tracking, i.e. not having an "honors" track, in majority white districts. I will tell you, though, that you can really only have detracking in 9-10th grade; by 11-12th grade, tracking of the highest achievers will resume in the form of Advanced Placement. It's probably true that everyone can handle or would benefit from the relative rigor of college prep/honors level material, but AP/IB is just too hard for some kids.

Perhaps if Hollywood studios could release films with soundtracks purged entirely of non-diegetic music, viewers and audiences could begin to appreciate how ubiquitous poorly written dialogue and screenplays have become and how lazy and poor the conventions of film acting have become when music has to be pumped into a soundtrack to signal to audiences what affective responses they are intended to have, when the writing and the acting cannot produce such effect.

Music has come to convey much more of the "affective content" in American films for passive audiences not so well educated, perhaps, in how affective manipulation through media presentations (across all platforms) today is handled, usually by larding non-diegetic music cues intended to supply what the "story" and the "acting" so often fail to provide.

French director Robert Bresson critiqued filmmaking in the 20th century that relied overmuch on stage conventions in a photographic medium demonstrably more closely related to painting than to stage drama. Today, the widespread application of the conventions of musical theatre in American film production arguably merits at least as much rebuke, especially when non-diegetic sound and music are used to mask weaknesses in writing or acting (or in directing, or in producing).

#3: Why am I not surpriced that an author with the E-mail address "" concludes meritocracy is sub optimal? Did he get tenure, or does he want tenure?

Here is an interesting example of dissent:'s%20Orwellian%20Campus%20Nightmare.pdf

and how the left deals with dissent, by following the example of one of their leaders:

Even an economist can offer useful instructions for avoiding a deathbed regret.

"On his deathbed, asked what his greatest regret might be, Keynes is supposed to have replied, “I should have drunk more champagne.”

Champagne bubbles often in my house.

#3 Deeply skeptical. Empirical studies and not mathematical models are the road to accurate economic wisdom.

The abstract (and even the introduction) of the paper does not do a good job at describing the model used and its underlying assumptions. It is likely that once the assumptions are clearly and completely stated, then the conclusions become intuitively obvious -- and the role of mathematics is just to confirm an essentially trivial syllogism.

Yet there may be some wisdom in that syllogism, something we would not have thought before seeing the paper. I would agree with Krugman on this : Models are useful in Economics but in general their mathematization adds very little value.

#5 Essentially the same logic applies to the case for testamentary freedom. Should the disposition of inherited wealth come down to your mental state when you are at your worst and prone to be capricious and to overemphasize your current life situation? Mexico, for instance, has inheritance laws specifically designed to counter this kind of freedom at near death by regulating disinheritance of children and by regulating deathbed gifts to the church in hopes of achieving salvation.

Prof. Cowen: Did Smith's "Parable of the poor man's son" have any influence on your take on the deathbed perspective?

"But in the langour of disease and the weariness of old age, the pleasures of the vain and empty distinctions of greatness disappear. To one in this situation they are no longer capable of recommending those toilsome pursuits in which they had formerly engaged him. In his heart he curses ambition, and vainly regrets the ease and the indolence of youth, pleasures which are fled for ever, and which he has foolishly sacrificed for what, when he has got it, can afford him no real satisfaction. In this miserable aspect does greatness appear to every man when reduced, either by spleen or disease, to observe with attention his own situation, and to consider what it is that is really wanting to his happiness...

But though this splenetic philosophy, which in time of sickness or low spirits is familiar to every man, thus entirely depreciates those great objects of human desire, when in better health and in better humour, we never fail to regard them under a more agreeable aspect. Our imagination, which in pain and sorrow seems to be confined and cooped up within our own persons, in times of ease and prosperity expands itself to every thing around us. We are then charmed with the beauty of that accommodation which reigns in the palaces and economy of the great; and admire how every thing is adapted to promote their ease, to prevent their wants, to gratify their wishes, and to amuse and entertain their most frivolous desires...

The pleasures of wealth and greatness, when considered in this complex view, strike the imagination as something grand, and beautiful, and noble, of which the attainment is well worth all the toil and anxiety which we are so apt to bestow upon it."

Seems like there's some similarity.

Re 1 boy is that the egg rather than the chicken. As said several times above, of course the fellows who already have income are more relaxed about waiting longer to get more income. But beyond that, re the conclusion that that's how they GOT their higher income - dude, so not provable from that data. And, re the conclusion we should teach everyone to delay gratification - are these researchers just so young that they don't know yet that Shit Happens? And that some percentage of their high income answerers are going to die young, and should have had some fun first, not just worked and saved.

3. from the paper: "as suggested by the intuition, the reverse result obtains for decreasing marginal costs. In that case, the output loss from contestants dropping out is smaller than the output gain from the remainder working harder. Hence, perfect meritocracy is uniquely output maximizing and Pareto efficient. Finally, for constant marginal costs, we establish a threshold effect: output is maximized for any level of meritocracy greater than the critical level."


6. I'll buy that animals learn from one another, but herd knowledge is only as good as its current information. A migratory path could easily become useless (or even dangerous) with an environmental change such as a forest fire, flood, etc.

For a herd or species to survive it has to have more going for it than that.

I find it more interesting how primitive humans migrated on oceans in rickety crafts over the horizon to lands they didn't even know existed, except perhaps from volcanic plumes. Took balls of steel.

2. What happened is people realized tanstaafl

School choice is free lunch economics. Economists promise the free lunch of better schools at lower cost by competition and choice among multiple providers.

It's the same promise of cheaper phone service by duplicating capital assets because it's cheaper to build 3 to 5 systems than to build just one system. Ie, five work forces are cheaper than one workforce.

What happens in reality is one workforce builds one set of capital assets for phone service and then rents portions to five phone carriers with limited carrier customization.

School choice has tended to devolve to private charters leasing school assets owned by taxpayers, in some cases with competing schools in the same campus or even same building, with student transportation provided by taxpayers with taxpayer assets, or private assets on contract with taxpayers.

Free lunch economics is "capitalism" that ignores capital, treating capital as simply money, not capital assets that gave capitalism it's nam, essentially adopting the same dismissive attitude to capital as Karl Marx.

It's the same free lunch economics that argues owning factories is too costly and capitalism is best served by owning only brand names and copyrights and contracting with non-US factories to produce goods cheap sold at high markups under a brand name, because it's the brand, not the asset sold under the brand, that has all the value. It's the brand, not the labor, that produces all the value.

School choice is based on selling a brand name, ignoring the capital assets and labor costs which are fixed over the long term for a given product, whether asset or service. Some schools pay teachers to work as semi-volunteers for usually limited times based on teaching not being a job to support a family life. The exception was being married to God as family. While idealized, the reality seems to be a dysfunctional family engaged in child's abuse.

If it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true.


Extreme meritocracy obviously works when marginal benefit is greater than marginal cost. That is, the benefits of having the very best person over the next best outweigh externalities such as poor teamwork or lower morale. Especially valuable for things where loners can work and make a big difference such as in some aspects of quant trading or in superstar legal battles where having the best legal team matters most at the margin for a well-balanced case.

#3 is pretty blindingly obvious to me.

Meritocracy means measuring people for high stakes. This in turn requires a measuring instrument. And means to prevent cheating. And tuning to prevent hacking the instrument (e.g. SAT/ACT/GRE/MCAT tutoring based on knowledge of the current or historic question banks). And some mechanism to alleviate the inability of the less fortunate to devote years of their lives and thousands of dollars to optimizing performance.

I mean what is the payout matrix for these tests? Cooperate (e.g. no $10K prep courses) and everyone sorts cheaply. Defect and everyone else does not, win a huge payout (e.g. thousands per annum for life by getting through an elite gatekeeper). Everyone defects, get stuck with the bill (hours of life lost learning directly to the instrument, tutoring costs, test security costs) and everyone sorts out the same as if they had all done nothing. Oh and this prisoner's dilemma game is a non-iterated match played non-iteratively against faceless millions.

Ultimately I just don't see how meritocracy ends up as anything other than an ever more centrally planned labor economy. This tends to decay everywhere it is tried (e.g. military promotion boards, medical residency matches, and of course everything in the USSR). If it is hubris to believe that central planners can correctly price pencils, how on earth can we expect them or a small oligopoly of gatekeepers to correctly price human talent?

Ultimately, I see most "meritocracy" today as a giant resource sink that does little to help the less fortunate actually enter elite professions and power circles but does legitimize an ever more heritable caste of petty elites. Given this, I suspect that we shall continue to burn ever more years of people lives with minimal actual evidence of positive outcomes.

5. That was a good one. I think of it often.

RE animals losing their "cultural memory" (in this case, ungulate migration), not totally surprising. Many mammals have a learning curve for behaviors you might think are instinctual. I was surprised to learn that analyses of mountain lion spoor show that their prey changes as they get older - for example, there are far fewer porcupine quills in older lion spoor (ouch.) They have to learn by trial and error; they don't have a template of which prey animals to focus on. Young lions also seem to be disproportionately represented among those which have negative interactions with humans.

The guy's definition of "meritocracy" is a straw man. Nobody thinks of it that way.

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