My Conversation with John Nye, what should I ask him?

Soon I will be having a Conversation with my esteemed colleague John V. Nye, one of the smartest people I know.  John is an economic historian but also a polymath with broad-ranging interests, including travel, classical music, chess, education, “institutions,” Asian food, the Philippines (his home country), and much more.

So what should I ask him?


I find few Filipino restaurants in my area despite a large Filipino population. Is this true elsewhere and if so, why?

While eating in a Filipino restaurant in South San Francisco I picked up a magazine for Filipinos In that magazine there was an article lamenting your question why are there so few Filipino restaurants. The answer they provided surprised me the author of this article claimed that Filipino Food was plain almost ugly. As I sat there eating my colorful food I found the article in this Filipino magazine surprising

I grew up in a Filipino restaurant that my mother owned and now run a Filipino food truck/street vendor tent where I live. Relating my personal experience with the question I noticed a few things:

1. The classic immigrant small business experience/model (restaurants, convenience stores, laundries, nail salons, etc.) isn't applicable to the Filipino immigrant experience in the United States, which was mainly a health care/US Navy experience.

2. There are not many standard preparations of dishes that Filipinos overall will agree with, which leads to my third observation:

3. Most Filipinos are content to cook for themselves and their families rather than go out to eat the same menu at a restaurant. Pot Lucks, Church festivities, etc. are where you are most likely to get Filipino food, rather than going out to eat.

jaycel are you familiar with Nicole Ponseca and the high end Filipino restaurants she's running? My wife is a friend of hers, and she does great work. Doing a cookbook too.

Tyler next time you are in NYC you need to jump on this:

msgkings, I am not familiar with her, but I wish her the best and much respect.

I have noticed a movement among Filipino chefs to go with a form of 'high end' which I have observed to mean the following:

1. upgrading of ingredients (organic, heritage breeds, etc.)
2. use of novel techniques (sous vide, Molecular Gastronomy, plating)
3. some form of fusion (burgers, pancakes, etc.)

Where I am from, they even have a hashtag: #morethanlumpia

I'm dubious, personally. But I wish anyone trying to make a go in the restaurant business much luck and success, it's rough.

I have lived in Southeast Asia for 20 years and been to the Philippines dozens pf times as have many if my friends and coworkers.

If you asked them the question, the universal answer would be the Philippines food is not only the worst is Asia, but maybe the only actually bad cuisine.

We may all be wrong, but the view is pretty much universal.

Jack: Everyone has their own tastes. I do, ok, making a living off of selling it.

That's great and as i said, we may all be wrong.

But as I said the view is universal, so everyone having their own tastes isn't a great response.

Universal among your cohort, yes. But your cohort is not everyone, so the response suffices. Then again, this particular thread was focused on US based Filipino food scene, so significant differences can exist.

SE Asian cousine with the exception of India, Thailand and Vietnam is horrible. High caloric foods. It includes PNG and also Hawaii (the favorite food in HI is Spam). That said, I eat anything. Except what msgkings' friends make, as I would need a professional taster.

I guess all that money my wife's friend is making is fake.

fake news, fake msgkings. It' ain't real until you post pictures bro. Isn't that what you always say about me? msgkings, a dude who exhorts a common and harmless food additive (msg, which brings out the sixth taste, umami)

I did post a link....bro

I'm sure your putative wife's friend does not appreciate the negative publicity that you, a horrible online person, is giving her. Margins are less than 5% in the eatery business, horrible, like you. But the chances anybody is paying attention to whatever you say is zero, so no harm, no foul.

There's at least one poster here who pays very close attention to me, when he's not killing chickens.

Los Angeles has a huge Filipino population, and not very many Filipino restaurants (outside of Eagle Rock, a neighborhood with a lot of Filipinos and even a shopping mall that's largely aimed at Filipino customers). The LA Times even wrote a couple of articles asking that same question, why so few Filipino restaurants and why isn't the cuisine better known.

Nobody had a good answer; the Filipino chefs they interviewed could only shrug and say that Filipino cuisine needs to be homemade.

There are plenty of highly skilled Filipino cooks in LA, but they're working at restaurants that don't serve Filipino food.

I went to several Filipino restaurants in LA and didn't like any of the dishes I had at any of them. It beats even Venezuela for having the worst national cuisine of any that I've tasted (arepas are fine as are Venezuela's outdoor barbecue places; this was pre-Chavez and his destruction of the economy).

As a couple of commenters have said, in the past few years we've seen a few Filipino restaurants gain positive attention in both NY and LA. I haven't been to them and I don't know what's different about them. I conjecture that they may be Americanizing their recipes; the places that I went to in LA were plenty authentic with AFAICT customers who were almost all Filipino.

Biased I admit, but I think Lechon (the whole pig) is one of the best pork dishes in the world and Filipino version of eggrolls, i.e. lumpia is the best take on that type of food among Asian cuisines. Another great recipe is chicken adobo. Dessert side, I think Filipino's make a better flan than the French creme brulee, when it comes to the custard type desserts of the culinary world. IMO.

One theory that I had, though it is purely a guess: Filipino restaurants (the traditional ones, not the new popular ones that are getting noticed) are for lower level, lower quality food, just as a random American might go to say a Denny's. When Filipino families want good food, they make it themselves and maybe have dozens of guests come to share in the big fancy meal. And so a Filipino restaurant owner has to cater to what the customers want; if they're going to a restaurant it's not for quality or a gourmet experience, it's for convenience perhaps at the lowest reasonable price.

That would explain why the Filipino chefs said that good Filipino food has to be homemade. It's not that it tastes worse at a restaurant, it's that the customers at a restaurant are not there for that quality of food.

One of the three best food articles that I've read was this one by Linda Barry, whose mother was Filipino, about living with her Filipino grandmother and the endless stream of guests coming and eating at the house including the day that they cooked a whole pig. It manages to describe one family's Filipino immigrant experience, to draw a biographical sketch of her family, and to be about food all at the same time.

I did try the recipe for pork adobo that accompanies the article. Great article, but I still didn't like the Filipino dish.

I think you are on the right path, mkt42.

It's interesting that we come to define the quality of a cuisine based on what a person can find in a restaurant, when the actual venues where people have meals is much larger than that.

I'll definitely check out the LATIMES piece you posted, thanks!!

Ask him why he doesn't have a blog!

John is very smart on Asian discrimination in colleges. Ask him about the recent Harvard debacle.

He's also very interesting on the topics of Russian culture, Eurasia's re-dawn, and China's system of internal migration.

Ask him if he still believes that "things will feel worse even as they get better."

I think a question on the Philippines in the 1800's would be interesting.

It's part of the world you don't hear about much economic history-wise and I wonder where it fits into the great divergence debate.

Is Social Science a science? (or for that fact, any field which pleadingly calls itself a science)

good point!
this fella looks like he could be Asian?
and he says he knows how to make blood vessels
with a 3 d printer
this looks like science
his personality seems pretty good

yes son,
he does seem to have a good personality and making blood vessels
with a 3d printer sounds like a good idea.
why don't we get the sociology dept to scan his brain
if they say its ok then you can keep him

What's wrong with the Philippines? Compared to other countries in east Asia, the Philippines is a huge disappointment. [Question inspired by Cowen's lecture on charter cities.]

I second this, but with a softer approach. Tyler, you claim that Singapore feels more Western than any other Asian country and has succeeded due to its adoption of not only British legal customs, but also cultural assimilation into the Empire in a lasting way.

Why did the Philippines not reap the same rewards from its time as a Spanish and American hegemon-backed charter city. Or were the Spanish and American legal and cultural institutions damaging in the Philippines in a way that the British were not in Singapore?

Also, although I have not been to Singapore, I feel that the Philippines is the most Western feeling asian country, from a love of Western music (The Beatles are still popular) to the popularity of basketball and SPAM. What does Nye see as the future of U.S. Philippine relations?

Finally, what of religion in the Philippines? Why did Catholicism take root so strongly? How are the ongoing church scandals playing out on the ground? How are the Muslim-Christian relations and what is the equilibrium?

Ask him what are the most overrated and underrated Asian foods!

What do Americans mean when they say "Asian food" do they really mean all forms of Asian cuisine? It's not a generalisation anyone really uses in Europe. We'd say Turkish, Iranian, Uzbek, Indian, Japanese, or whatever. There's so much variety you'd be as well leaving out the Asian part and just saying "I like food".

I think about it, and it's really striking me that we use it to refer mainly to South-Eastern Asia.

We are usually more specific. But, if someone were to say the phrase "Asian food" to me in a conversation, that is the way I would interpret it. When I talk casually with friends I don't personally use the phrase. I eat Indian food, Chinese food, Sushi, etc.

Ask about Rizal's influence on Filipino political thinking and whether the country met Rizal's dreams?

What's his opinion on Fukuyama's "Origins of Political Order" project?

Does Rossini get less respect today because his stuff is too popular, too well known, too lowbrow?

Ask him about his days as a high end audio equipment designer and get him to explain to you why tube amplification done right is still the best.

What specific policies or institutions would increase the long run rate of growth for United States?

(I know the typical answer. I want to know his answer)

Nye has a physics degree so interesting to ask if he thinks the Great Stagnation will end in the 2040s as Tyler has said and if he thinks there will be no medical breakthroughs from 2012 to 2030 has Tyler also said.

(The U.S. GDP per capita has grown on average 1.5 percent a year since 2012 so not exactly in a Great Stagnation. Does CRISPR -Cas9 count as a medical breakthrough?)

If our goal is economic growth, what is America's "institutional deficit"? What institution would benefit us the most if it were to marginally increase in status? The university, the family, the church? What about other countries?

Are institutions created from rules, or do they arise as equilibria?

Was the decline in slavery and serfdom in the 19th and 20th centuries a result of enlightenment, or technological progress?

When and why would we expect real wages to rise significantly (by an order of magnitude) in the future?

Was the US wise to invade the Philippines towards the end of WWII? Would it have been better for the population just to ignore it while attacking Japan itself?

Would the Philippines be any different today had Aquino not been assassinated?

The idiots on this thread are amazing. They seize the last thing TC posted about John Nye --that he's BORN in the Philippines--and assume the man, apparently an economic historian, is an expert on the Philippines. Classic "immediacy bias" which I use all the time in my trolling (I post a substantive comment then at the end a provocative troll, and people respond to the troll). Hell, I probably know more about the Philippines, as a foreigner living here, than Nye does being away from the country for so long. His expertise is probably economic history, just like TC said in the beginning of his post.

Bonus trivia: John Nye doesn't even exist! No Wikipedia page. The only John Nye is a white guy: "John Frederick Nye (born 26 February 1923)[1] is the first physicist to apply plasticity to understand glacier flow.[2][3] Nye's early work was on the physics of plasticity, spanning ice rheology, ice flow mechanics, laboratory ice flow measurements, glacier surges, meltwater penetration in ice, and response of glaciers and ice sheets to seasonal and climatic change"

I had the chance to interact with John Nye over a decade ago via IHS. Tyler's right: Nye is off-the-charts smart (and a helluva nice guy, to boot).

Tyler, you should ask Nye about the United States's disastrous liability crisis e.g., how we've promised much, much more in entitlements than we can afford to pay out. This is the fiscal equivalent of the global warming catastrophe; an insoluble problem with no conceivable painless solution.

How does this story end for USA? And what are the geopolitical implications for the world's great powers (e.g. how will this work after China becomes the indisputably largest and strongest economy in the world?)

Also, ask about economic history. His work on "the myth of free trade Britain and Protectionist France" was incredible!

Yeah, good thanks.

Being selfish here, and not helping Tyler out by supplying a question, but I’d like to know which 4-5 economic history works he considers essential and important.

knew a nurse from the philipines
who if you made her laugh
diet coke would come out of her nose.
it was cool
she died of ovarian cancer

1. Is traveling light overrated or underrated?
2. In what ways can one waste a trip abroad?
3. What does he think of Bryan Caplan’s views on education?
4. How effective have been conscious decisions to make institutions better thus far?
5. What are the key things that the Philippines needs to work on?

Great job, you know what?

I read a lot of blog posts and I never heard of a topic like this.I love this topic you made about the Conversation with John Nye.

Hey, I want to know about this more. Please creat a blog about this.
1. How effective have been conscious decisions to make institutions better thus far?
2. What are the key things that the Philippines needs to work on?

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