What is the real problem with social media? And how should we respond?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  Here is one bit:

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who is also a Nobel laureate in economics, has written and co-written a number of papers on happiness in which he distinguishes between enjoying the moment and having an overall sense of satisfaction with one’s life. As it turns out, these two variables often diverge quite dramatically…

My tentative conclusion from all this: Online life is inducing us to invest less in our memories and long-term sense of satisfaction. It is pretty obvious from human behavior that, right now, the internet is doing more to boost short-term pleasures.

The more negative take would be that online life is obscuring our understanding of our own lives. I do not go that far. After all, humans make analogous choices about balancing short- and long-term happiness when they have one child rather than four, or when they sit on an exercise bike rather than get on a plane to Paris. Those aren’t the wrong decisions for everybody.

The solutions include pro-natalism and more travel:

There is so much talk about regulating or controlling the internet. Dare I suggest an alternative approach? Use public policy to help shift the balance of ease back toward life satisfaction and the formation of longer-term memories. Make it cheaper and easier to have and raise children. Use the education system to support more study trips abroad. Think about how to ease the pursuit of long-term life satisfaction.

There are plenty of human imperfections behind our online choices. As we respond, why not accentuate the positive — and keep the freedom to choose?

There is much more at the link, please do read the whole thing.


Didn't see a link, so here it is: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-25/yes-the-internet-can-make-us-happier

i'm not one to make "to the man" arguments" but im curoius if tyler has enough real world experience to write such a piece.

he has not insta
doesn't follow any crazies on twitter
is not a "user" of FB.

so he doesn't seem to have any real exposure to the dark/depressing side of social media. plus he seems to have a pretty content life. he gets to read and write about whatever he wants and with the exception of maybe a weekly faculty meeting, rarely does anything he doesn't really want to do. the lives of most is the opposite and then they compare their less than desirable lives to the highlights of others.

This info is worth everyone's attention. When can I
finnd out more?

" Online life is inducing us to invest less in our memories and long-term sense of satisfaction. "

Says who? I'm going to look back in 30 years and be proud of the fact that I trolled all you cucks.

Funniest - and most preposterous - thing you have ever said.
(Actually the only funny thing you have ever said).
You little loser! Right now you are an obvious nerd with a mental disorder, in 30 years you will be an elderly nerd.

You will be proud of nothing unless you change your ways, you poor little sad helpless creature! There are people who want to help you, wake up and find help, poor little chuckler cuckwordlover !!!
You do not have to live this way!

Luke 1:50

James 2:13

are for you.
I could not find any verses specific to the sort of person who spends so much time as you being so ugly and nerdish, but those are a start, little cuckwordloving person

Only God knows what a hard past you remember in your own life, you poor sap.

30 years from now, idiot, the living people will be the sort of people who you should admire, not the sort of people who you think want to spend a single second of their time considering your nerd-loser views of your sad disgusting ugly trolling experiences.

You read the Bible? Definitely a cuck. If you read the Koran however I would quietly leave since I value my life and limbs.

Seriously I was trying to help.

Don't fear me, fear God and my Guardian Angel.

And when you say reading the Bible makes someone a cuck , you are a disgusting liar, and a whimpering friend of Satan. And even I probably cannot help a friend of Satan, so please repent, little loser.

I only want the best for you. Don't fear the Muslims, fear God, or fear the people who know the truth about God: fear that they might abandon you, because of your disgusting sinfulness: and the truth is that God hates evildoers.

Don't talk that way again, is what I am trying to say.

By the way I talked to your grandparents this afternoon, all 3 of them, and to your great-grandparents, all 6 of them.

I know why you are angry!

But for the love of God, anger is no way to live a life! Plus being a minion of the sort of person who would want you to be a minion is just plain embarrassing!

I get it that maybe some day you will rise to the level of finding a spouse, that day you will stop speaking of cucks.

I highly doubt any person of the opposite sex would want to marry you.
But you can change that. Join the Marines, hairball, and try to be someone who someone would want to marry. Once you do that, you will lose your incontinent desire to say the word cuck over and over ....

Don't worry, none of us will miss the amusement of you talking about cucks so much, like the sad clown you are ... it is not really an amusement, it is just sad and disgusting and ugly, like finding vomit in the space between the cushions on the airplane ....
stop vomiting, little sinful creature with the heart of a lonely nerd>>>

I enjoy saying cuck because it makes you so upset and annoyed. You're like a Hillary voter day after election.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

And I enjoy pointing out to mentally ill people that they can be sane one day!

wait wtf you voted for Trump? so did I! Truce, little guy!

Seriously, you voted for Trump? Who told you to do that?

Ha ha ha ha ha a fellow Trump voter on MR and I have been trolling the dude!

Seriously for all your silly motivations for trolling here,
God bless you for voting for Trump.

You may have the last word, fellow Trump voter ... or ... dare I hope ...
fellow contributor to the Trump campaign fund - it is not the contributed money that matters it is the distribution of contributions !!!!!

Although if you do not know that I got the better of you and you imply that, and if you try to insist otherwise, it will be evident .... but go ahead and have the last word .....

By the way cuckwordlover, I am a supremely gifted psychologist.

I do not expect you to say thank you for my priceless advice, today ...

or tomorrow. but 30 years from now ..... I am sure of the future.

For the love of God, lift some weights (or learn how to apply makeup, if you are a girl), and get out there and find someone of the opposite sex to love you!

Resentful Cuckwordlovery is a waste of your precious time

Psychologists with lesser gifts than mine have cured people worse off than you!

Luke 1:50

James 2:13

For a so-called Christian, you sure seem angry and condescending towards people you obviously hate. Love your enemies? Calling him "ugly and nerdish", "a sad clown" or a "nerd-loser", isn't exactly turning the other cheek. If his language bothers you, just turn off social media for while.

I am trying to shock the evil little bastard into seeing his own evil.

There can be nothing kinder.

I have suffered so much that if I told you all I have suffered you would have a fucking heart attack. Kindness is my motive. I want him to stop suffering.

By the way, thank you for caring. My heart is full of love for you, that you thought it worth your time to correct me.

And may God prevent you from experiencing a small fraction of the suffering I have experienced, and may God bless you.

And may you someday find it in your heart - a real Christian heart, I pray - to try and shock some evil little bastard into seeing his own evil.

And if someone on the sidelines tells you that you are a so-called Christian, well no harm no foul because you said what you meant.

Feel free to reply with anger, but please also do this: Please pray for my friends who are suffering tonight .

Frankie in the NorthEast, Bubba in the South, Nazare in Europe.


And one more time - every day for the rest of my life I will pray that you do not experience anywhere near as much suffering as I have experienced.
And I will pray that people like you show some kindness for evildoers, sometimes all they need is someone to talk to.

Now fuck off.

and lighten up we are all rational people despite our faults

even those of us who have suffered more than you can imagine

and who try to help those who are crying out in anger

because they do not know what I know

God loves us all

even if I were not a supremely gifted psychologist and was just some loser who has nothing better to do on Monday night than try and be funny on the internet I would have to know this because I am not a loser

God loves us all

For the record that loser who said God I believe help my unbelief is now a saint but he was a loser when he said that

The dark night of the soul is for most of you a hoax, I have dozens of friends and I have talked about this sort of thing with hundreds of people

God wants you to be happy, no parable was scary, it is so easy to just pray and say, please, God, let me see what you want me to do with my life.

If You, God, are not willing to speak to me tonight, let my Guardian Angel speak to me. If my Guardian Angel does not speak to me, let a friend who has seen the face of an angel who has seen the face of the Lord speak to me.

If I made you laugh, believe me, I know what I am talking about.
If you read this and did not laugh, and thought I am crazy or dull-witted (hahahahaha) , that is sad. Because you are wrong.

I know who God loves, and that is an extremely sophisticated level of knowledge, and I know God loves you.

Now open the Bible, Gideon's Bible if you are on the road or some home Bible if you are at home, and either read for a while, or read a little and pray.

Either I am crazy or I am, as I said, a supremely gifted psychologist. The sad thing about the internet is this: I am not crazy, but I cannot prove it.

Good luck, my young friends (and anyone born after the 19th century is young to someone like me ----trust me)

It is so easy.

Now open the Bible, Gideon's Bible if you are on the road or some home Bible if you are home, and either read for a while, or read a little and pray.

With these words, or words like these, I have helped many people back in the day, and there is no reason you cannot be as successful as they were, as successful at living a full life as they were, in the light of God's love. And that is a wonderful thing!

Ffs, even if I am not the "supremely gifted psychologist" I claimed to be (and I do not care if I am or if I am not but I am) you have to know that it is worth a try : God loves us all. I have preached to Ais, I have preached to people who thought they were the best of the best, and now, tonight, whoever you are, I am telling you this: tolle et lege ..... try, try, try and understand what it means to try and understand the words of the Holy Spirit, or of Jesus, or of God the Father.

And yes I have seen the face of an angel, more than once.
And no I am hardly a Christian, but that means nothing, Jesus suffered a lot too and he is a good friend to his fellow sufferers, and I have suffered too much to be more than just someone who knows what it would be to be a Christian if I had not suffered every day for almost a century, mathematically speaking. Figure it out if you can, but I hope, for your sake, that you can't.

God loves us all. Me and God are friends. I know that now.

I always knew that. I feel so sorry for anyone who can look me in the eyes and say I did not always know that.

God loves us all.

You have no idea of how powerful my Guardian Angel is.

Just ask, in a quick moment, for some help from that Angel, interceding to the Lord for help, and you will see what I mean.

God has been good to all of us.

Kindness is my motive. No kidding, I have no fear of the Devil or of the avenging Angels that God sends down or of Death - death, by the way, is afraid of people like me, and for God's sake after 50 years of suffering I have no fear of basic human suffering, I laugh at all that,

Kindness is my motive.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Yes, I know that that this comment thread will likely be deleted, I don't care one way or another. I know in my heart that someone will read this and think of the joy of repentance, the joy of becoming a friend to the Lord.

I said what I said, and I meant it.

One last word, and then you can mock me all you want

if you think it is easy to write words like Death is Afraid of me (no joke, I have been to lots of funerals, and typically, according to what I have been told, Death is in a good mood at funerals, like the song said of Santa, this is Santa's big scene, talking about Christmastime, well at funerals,where Death thinks hey this is my big scene,the poor creature thinks this is "my big scene", then the poor creature sees me there, and then Death thinks, o fuck, that guy again, who makes me feel sad for my poor choices in life in such an obvious way ..... look I have no beef against 'death', the poor little creature did not exactly choose to be what it is, and yes I feel a little sad for Death at every funeral I show up at because I know that Death knows that I know what Death is - just one of God's creatures, but a creature that knows, relative to other creatures (sad!) so little pleasure and joy in this world ---- sad! ....... and I feel, with sympathy, in my heart, that Death knows that Death should be sad whenever someone like me, who has seen the faces of angels who have seen God, shows up at a "funeral" (You may have read in the newspaper that on such and such a day Pastor X passed away, but don't you believe it ----- he is more alive today than he ever was)

if you think it is easy to be who I am and to spend time writing things like this on the internet .... think again - you really do not want to have suffered as much in this world as I have - but on the other hand I have seen the faces of angels who have seen the face of God ..... if you think "hey what the fuck how did Tyler and Alex not delete these crazy claims" ..... well think again.

God loves us all. Even me. I know that.

As always (I have my faults but not saying what I want to say is not one of them) I said what I meant.

God loves us all.

You have no idea how much I want the guy or gal who likes the word cuck to be saved, to be a Christian, the way I would be a Christian if I had not suffered so much, if I had not suffered so much that it is difficult for me to understand how difficult those three days were for Jesus who, if the Bible is all we have to go by, has no idea how difficult those thousands of days of suffering were for me.

And,for the record, no you do not need to be afraid of my Guardian Angel. I do not allow him to inspire fear of suffering in anyone. We are friends.

God loves us all

And if you think I wasted my time you are mistaken.

God loves us all.

I meant what I said.

Now, can I talk to you as a friend talks to a friend? If I can't, stop reading, If I can: Our dear Lord Jesus was born in a "manger" but the little child never knew what it was to have parents who hated him, or who did not care if he suffered or not, as I knew. I love my parents, because I know that they were raised in homes where they were not loved, and I feel deep sadness for all four of my grandparents, because, as God is my witness, I know how unkind they were, in their sad ignorance, to their children, always justifying themselves (we did our best, the poor creatures told themselves, but no they did not, and I do not care if their evildoing was 11 or 12 decades ago, I am the one person in this universe who knows - and I forgive, but I also remember, and I pray that similar wrongs are not committed today, or tomorrow, or in the future - you are welcome, by the way, if my prayers make the lives of your descendants better ..... )

I know what you need to know.

You need to know that God loves you, and God wants you to do what only you can do. God will never know, as a human knows, what it is to be a creature who has suffered the way we have, and who still forgives, and = trust me = God knows what power is, and God knows much better than I do how much power we have when we forgive those who seek forgiveness, I mean of course God knows, but ....

Trust me, or not. Dream wonderful dreams, if you want, but don't forget that it is better to be kind to a creature who never had a friend in this world than it its to dream the most wonderful and artistic and inspired dreams that can or could possibly exist.

As always, you are welcome for the good advice. Dream wonderful dreams and live wonderful lives.

Or ignore what I said, but seriously I do know what I am saying .

Dream wonderful dreams and live wonderful lives.

A billionyearsfromnow we may talk about it, maybe not, but today I can say: I remember.

I remember.

No friend of mine needs to worry much, because I pray for all my friends.

Good luck going forward!

welcome to the real world

Proverbs 17:17

Seriously I have no condescension or anger in my heart.

That is part of why Death fears me. And for the love of God, if it is not enough for you that I am willing to say on some website or another that Death fears me, in response to a claim that I am a pseudo-Christian (and I never even claimed to be a good Christian that is the funny thing I am merely someone who is a friend of Jesus, or who wants to be), well, what more can I say?

Seriously, I have said I suffered thousands of days when Jesus suffered about 3 days. I have said poor Death is afraid of me. I have said I have seen the faces of the angels. I have said, despite my natural desire to be humble, that I am a supremely gifted psychologist. But I do not spend much time thinking of myself, I generally spend my time thinking of others ...

But who can be a friend to even such an unloveable creature as Death if one has anger or condescension in one's heart? And the only reason Death is afraid of me is because I pray for the poor creature's repentance, and Death is not used to being prayed for in a kind and friendly way .... well, Death is going to have to get used to being prayed for the way I pray.

Fear not, God loves you, the important thing is to respond with love in your heart every time you perceive the goodness that so rejoices the heart of the Lord .....

if this was too intense (nothing is too intense for me but you and me are not the same person) forget about anything I have ever said, but please concentrate on our Good Lord and concentrate on those moments - and trust me I have known some pretty nasty people, who are more happy now because I prayed for them in such moments - verb. sap. sufficit, I remember - concentrate on those numerous moments where you and the Lord were friends, and go forward in life trying to make those moments more frequent.

And after you have done that for a few years, if you want to mock me, go ahead ..... I am easily amused! But for the love of God never ever ever mock people like me. That would not be a good idea! God loves you more than me, but you do not know that: but God loves me, and I know that, so do not mock me.

God loves you more than God loves me. I remember.

reading over what I have said ... let me make this one thing clear, that I did not make clear before ---- well, even if you are a friend of Satan I can help you, easily, if you repent just a little bit.

God is my friend.

God loves all of us with infinite love.

Sorry to sound arrogant but you probably have no realistic idea what that means, and I do, Trust me, I do not say that from arrogance.

Pray with me for the poor creature Death.

We can save, with our prayers, every creature who ever lived.

I have known that for a long time and now you know it too.

Sorry, little friend, but the very idea that you thought it was funny to make me upset at your blasphemy was just completely unpersuasive. I have not lived a good life but one thing I know is that God loves us all, even when we make fools of ourselves ---- not that I hold that against you. To the contrary, I only wish you the best, because I know why you were tempted to sin.

Pray for me, it is not all that easy to be a mortal of whom Death Itself is afraid but that is what I am. And you think I am insulted by cuckoldry jokes! I know what would happen to you if you tried, even for a moment, to approach my wife with evil in your heart, you poor little bastard, and I know that God loves me so much that he will not let that happen. My guardian angel will keep you from such evil thoughts. God loves you so much, you will understand that one day.

As I always say to people who do not understand this world as well as I do, feel free to have the last word, but try to say something worthy of a human being, and try not to embarrass yourself.

God loves you,

This is a nice piece. I endorse. I could quibble that there are more choices than "sit on an exercise bike rather than get on a plane to Paris."


(It is one of the curiosities of the internet in 2019 that good tools for route finding, hike tracking, and new route sharing are so fragmented. Too many deadlocked business models? AllTrails is also popular. Strava. MapMyHike. etc.)

Indeed. I find the internet as an unlimited source of information about what to do. There are communities of interest that are very good. They don't encourage short termism or instantaneous gratification, and are surprising in how long term the communities and personal connections can be.

Then there is Twitter. Although to be fair there exists communities of interest on that platform as well. Nothing I'm interested in can be even described in 240 characters.

That's true. I still hike with people I met on MeetUp ten years ago. Though we all moved on. A "local hiking club" with 6,000 members got too crazy.

Yep. I read only about four subreddits regularly (and three of them are on practically identical topics) and though there are disputes about various things they are highly on topic with a good signal-to-noise ratio. Thanks to the communities of interest that you mention (OTOH, the communities were better when they were based on email lists or usenet, compared to modern social media).

Twitter though ... bleah. I only read it when someone on some blog or other social media links to a particularly interesting stream. That's maybe a couple of times a week, and even when I'm reading those tweets I'm wishing they had not used twitter as their medium.

r/economics gives me another megadose of econ comments.

I'm not sure which choice is being approved of - riding the exercise bike or going to Paris. If these are the poles, I'd lean toward being healthy and fit rather than well-traveled.

Once you get to Paris, spend a couple of weeks walking around everywhere - it need not be either/or, of course.

That was my immediate* reaction also. Riding a bike is a long-term investment in one's health. Going to Paris is a short-term consumption decision that could bring immediate gratification (and, for some, instagram photo opportunities). However, Tyler goes on to advocate using the education system to support more study trips abroad so, presumably, he views the Paris trip as the better choice.

Study abroad is not completely worthless. However, if one were truly focused on the long term, I would think one would emphasize deep study --- the hard kind involving books, pencil, and paper rather than travel --- when one was young, along with a vigorous exercise regimen designed to sharpen ones physical and mental toughness. Travel abroad and "soft" learning can come later after one has developed a robust portfolio of human capital.

*No irony intended.

Travel, including going to Paris, is one of the best long-term consumptions decisions that one can make, so good that I'd almost call it an investment instead of consumption.

Because if you wait until you're 65 and retired to go to Paris, you've got maybe 15 or 20 years to enjoy and benefit from the memories. If you do it while in college (as Tyler suggests with his study abroad idea) or just after graduating, you've got over 50 years of enjoyment. And possibly life-changing experiences such as deciding to work abroad or learn French or go to cooking school or whatever. Or just having a better understanding of how different and how similar cultures can be.

If you've seen the movie "Up", think about how Carl and Ellie wanted to visit "Paradise Falls" in Venezuela but waited decades before buying their tickets (and Ellie got sick and died and never did get to go).

In reality, Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world. Contrary to the movie, it's not located on Roraima, which is the name of the 9,000 foot tall mesa (that's what Americans would call it; in Venezuela they're called tepuis) that's depicted in the movie. The movie otherwise did a very good job of depicting Roraima, from the distinctive jutting "tower" off to one side to the twisty rock formations on the summit and distinctive ecosystem up there (there are no giant colorful birds up there though). Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Lost World" is set on Roraima because explorers theorized that dinosaurs might still be living on the isolated summit.

It's been over 20 years since I trekked to the summit of Roraima and I've been glad I did it for every one of those 20 years. This is long-term consumption, not short-term.

If I'd waited until now to go, not only would I have 20 fewer years of consumption value, I probably wouldn't go at all due to the chaos in Venezuela. It was a bad enough country to visit 20 years ago (road blocks where soldiers or national guardsmen with automatic rifles stopped our bus and made us get off so they could inspect our luggage; worst cuisine of any country that I've been to, although in the US I'd rate Filipino cuisine below Venezuelan; I've never been the the Philippines so I don't know what the food is like there).

That being said, exercising has valuable long-term rewards too. And as a couple of commenters have pointed out, don't choose between riding your exercise bike or traveling to Paris: do both. Travel, but instead of being a couch potato on a bus, walk the streets of Paris or traverse highlands of Scotland or trek to the summit of Roraima.

Apps like Zwift make it possible to sit on an exercise bike and go to Paris at the same time. I can't help but think Tyler is showing his age a little bit on this one. Zwift your way through Paris streets for a few weeks before your big trip and scout out what you want to see closer. The internet can do anything these days.

Would love to combine that with a 3D virtual reality helmet.

For sure! It can only be a matter of time, but how awesome would that be?

Apps like Zwift make it possible to sit on an exercise bike and go to Paris at the same time.

No, it doesn't, anymore than looking at the elementary classroom Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington means that you are 20 feet from the "father of the country". Furthermore, staring at a television tuned to the correct channel on February 3, 2019 at 7:00 PM EST doesn't mean that you were watching Super Bowl LIII. Rather you were observing the movement of pixels on a screen that may or may not have had anything to do with what was going on at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia at that time. Nobody believes that reading Melville's Moby Dick is the same as being a crewman on a whaling ship. They also don't really believe that a pathetic computer trip to Paris is the same as the real thing.

"I will defeat a narrow, pedantic point and tell myself that I have refuted the entire comment!"

"Use public policy to help shift the balance of ease back toward life satisfaction and the formation of longer-term memories"
Including reducing corporate working hours. All time spend at work (or doing work remotely out of office hours) creates amazingly stunted lives and narrowed minds. I trust Tyler you address this in your Big Business book?

Undoubtedly, being able to enjoy the benefits of having weeks of free time as a faculty member, Prof. Cowen is an enthusiastic supporter of European style month long vacations.

(One of the greatest advantages of working at a university is that it is completely possible to travel for four weeks at a stretch without anyone having any problems with it.)

Largely spot on.

I like to use the crime analogy. For the most part violent crime (in the US) has been decreasing sharply, but when asked or polled people repeatedly say it is on the rise because they perceive it to be and are exceptionally aware of specific events with staying power.

Perception is power and is important in peoples' overall well-being. There are large number of beautiful Instagram millionaires that are unhappy. The point of Instagram (and fbook) is to ensure that their fans never know this.

Except now it is members of the media who live on Twitter who are unhappy. They seem to exist in the equivalent of a high school lunch room, including the food fights. It is truly bizarre.

I think the 'solution' is for a media company to discourage directly and indirectly (your story came from twitter? I think there is an opening in the mail room that you may be interested in).

Scott Alexander with Slatestarcodex mentioned - I can't remember which post - that one of the biggest soc-med issues, but most especially on Twitter, is "point-scoring".

There is absolutely a dopamine-related hit/high that comes from the point-scoring behavior that quite frankly Twitter encourages and thrives off more so than any other platform. Trump and innumerable other politicians and CEOs are just as guilty of hooking and getting hooked as journalists or anyone else for that matter in the search for sweet sweet smack-downs.

Your analogy of high-school is both apt but not at all bizarre. I have mentioned here and in private conversations how disturbing it is that - once you become aware of it - very little in modern social existence actually matures past "high-school" (not just US but other countries as well). For large cohorts (read majority) of humans emotional and intellectual maturity really stops there and never evolves. Twitter, Facebook, Insta, etc. etc. etc. are really the most perfect modern too in our highly-curated digital version of 10th grade show-and-tell.

See my power below. "Point scoring" is all about status anxiety. It resembles high school for a reason. High school is when our status anxiety is typically at it's peak. We're sorting out who is going to be prom queen and who is a "loser".

er, post ... that was a weird misspelling.

Umma- the whole community of [nature] bound together by ties of [metaphor].

'Except now it is members of the media who live on Twitter who are unhappy. '

Well, sure - twitter has the crappiest video player I have ever experienced, after needing to use twitter to post a link to the Tucker Carlson outburst.

// "Use public policy to.... Use the education system to ..."

great libertarian thinking -- just use government policy (commands) & the dominant compulsory government school system to mold people in the "proper" attitudes and behaviors

Agreed. This is the crux of the piece, I think: All this said, it’s hard to argue that the internet hasn’t made things worse for human beings who are already inclined to seek too much immediate reward. The internet feeds this tendency.

A good and important observation, but I don't think "use public policy to help make it cheaper to have kids" addresses that at all, really. It's a platitude, essentially.

He's saying deregulate things wherever regulations create artificially high marginal costs for activities that tend to create long-term happiness. It is a perfectly libertarian message.

Labor laws which require workers be paid legally is costly regulation.

Are you arguing for a repeal of the 13th amendment to slash labor costs while creating lots more jobs?

What would it take to make you a slave, along with your children, to both cut costs and create more jobs? Why should white children not be forced to work in jobs for black slave owners to cut the costs for black business owners?

I know of no costs that are not labor costs in the context of "cut costly regulation". No government regulations mandate high profits.

What the lobbyists want are deregulation to enable high profits on bad loans, ie, a $500 "loan" that generates $1000 in profits from $2000 in payments before erased by a bankruptcy or probate judge. In my youth, that was loan sharking, and both illegal, but prohibitd by the bible among conservative bible thumpers. But today is extolled by bible thumper backed conservatives as "helping the poor by cutting cost of paying bills at the end of the pay period".

I grew up (in Indiana) when conservatives wanted costs to be higher, meaning in most cases, "profits". Then they were "producers" who wanted to be paid for working, not rent seekers.

I’m glad you post here! It’s good to have the off the wall left wing perspective alive and well on this site....

While I probably agree there is a problem, the proposed solution looks a lot like a nudge. And I have yet to hear an argument why a nudge is anything other than "Nanny state-lite."

Ok I m going to sound libertarian here but why "use public policy"? Why not let people figure this out just like you did? Isn't that in line with what you wrote in Stubborn Attachments? The upfront benefit of such public policy would be very small in the short term right? And who knows what such policy really would look like what what consequences it would bring. Let's be a bit patient and allow the tech to work itself out.

Why use public policy?

“It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.”
- Richard Feynman

The beautiful theory of libertarianism is that equates to utilitarianism, because free individuals self-optimize.

Noted here with good context:


This is dumb, even for you.

You gots two choices. Either you argue that libertarianism produces utilitarianism, or you admit that it is an ideology you are promoting over the general welfare.

Well you chose to post a non-sequitur about how we could stop paying for people's health care and they would live just as long, so I'm not sure why you think those are his only two choices.

It shouldn't hard to connect those dots. When does "stronger" public policy produce better outcomes?

I mean, just looking at the "experiment" we've been running, I'd say that it's pretty settled that without strong public policy multinationals will absolutely tear up the natural environment and lie to protect themselves, so... like, I'm going to continue hoping the government steps in to save the water, the flora, and the fauna, because Exxon decided 50 years ago that global warming was real and then, apparently, that their shareholders' dividends were more important than every living thing on earth.

“You gots two choices. Either you argue that democracy produces utilitarianism, or you admit that it is an ideology you are promoting over the general welfare.”

“You gots two choices. Either you argue that freedom of speech produces utilitarianism, or you admit that it is an ideology you are promoting over the general welfare.”

“You gots two choices. Either you argue that separation of church and state produces utilitarianism, or you admit that it is an ideology you are promoting over the general welfare.”

“You gots two choices. Either you argue that INSERT HERE produces utilitarianism, or you admit that it is an ideology you are promoting over the general welfare.”

You’re an imbecile.

Sure! I can argument democracy is best for that, in history and in practice, and that's why I support it.

Sadly, I am also told I am in a minority!


So not only did you ignore 2/3, you skipped the entire “make the argument” point.

Chaining yourself to the dead weight of utilitarianism is interesting. On the other hand, i definitely have a better view into your moral system.

Singapore doesn’t have an opioid crisis. Japan’s criminal justice system ensures the crime rate is near zero. Saudi Arabia has little petty theft.

Interesting to see how quickly progressives throw out the Bill of Rights in search of more utils.

Don't be sore that your answer was too revealing.

Basically you chose a list of things that were pragmatic goods, rather than ideologies.

Democracy, free speech, and separation of church and state *all* support divergent views on politics. They all rise above one single economic answer.

No, we’re all very clear on your answer.

Freedom is a pragmatic good to you, subordinate to utilitarianism.

Also called fascism, communism, etc. Murdering the Jew (or Tutsi, or Yazidi), if it increases enough utilitarianism among Nazis (or Hutus or ISIS), is self recommending to you.

Trust me we all get it.



The stampede from Wall Street to internet advertising was based on one premise—the agencies convinced the advertiser to run the spend on “digital” advertising as an asset, not an expense. Advertisers issued the investment to the agency as a fixed income security, and the interest was to be paid in branding upside. Middle men, companies like Skylark, compete on guaranteed coupons, or a lift in the advertiser sales. They were compelled to open walls and use data to pollinate a garden and in the stormy short run it was a splashed pot, but companies like Skylark were actually destroying the publisher model, thus bulldozing doors.

"The beautiful theory of libertarianism is that equates to utilitarianism, because free individuals self-optimize."

That's obviously wrong. Libertarianism optimizes for individual freedom whereas utilitarianism optimizes for group "good". So both the unit (individual vs group) and the target (freedom vs good) are different.

I think that is the trick of the question. If optimizing for individual freedom does not also optimize for group good, what exactly is it doing?

Just creating a subset of winners?

You do realize that utilitarianism is also "creating a subset of winners" don't you? That's kind of the whole point.

When one individual sacrifices himself to save the crew, it's creating a subset of winners and 1 big time loser.

I think that is looking the wrong way round, at the corner case, rather than the median.

There were 79 episodes in the original Star Trek and Spock didn't have to off himself once.

He sure as hell did in the second movie though!

The one true captain!

By the way, as some of you probably figured, I am playing with Tyler's transition from somewhat of libertarian to more a "utilitarian with human rights."

Why public policy?


"I think that is looking the wrong way round, at the corner case, rather than the median."

I'm shocked that you would hand wave away the argument. It's completely out of character for you {sarcasm}.

The ultimate solution is genetic. After a few thousand years if this most of the people who are emotionally susceptible to the ill.effects of social media will have committed suicide in their teens, so the gene pool will have improved. ALL WILL BE WELL.

I once was used during a hurricane.

Good piece, but the paragraph about addiction is way off base. Of course people are trying (usually unsuccessfully) to get rid of their twitter/fb/insta accounts. The only reason they don’t try to get rid of smart phones is that they are so integral to modern life. And of course people experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut down use.

I’m currently on public transit en route to give a History lecture. Of the twenty or so people around me, one is reading a dead tree product and the rest are on their phones. As am I.

Social media: As hard as it is to wean oneself off of social media — and I have done largely by virtue of growing up prior to Instagram etc — it is harder to wean oneself oneself off of the internet. Ten years ago or so I felt I had to choose between TV and the internet. I chose the latter (except I kept Netflix and a sports bundle).

As I continue to become a fan of both Zhuangzi and Han-shan, I see that my overlapping strategies of apoliticization, self-marginalization, and cultural criticism are well-informed by other decisions to completely forego television and wireless telephony.

While I may miss things, I wind up missing little of the infantilization and stultification proffered jointly each and every moment of each and every day by our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment and our lying and spying Tech Sector.

If the Internet already shows itself capably to be the stern enemy of human perceptions of sheer temporality (to say nothing of how capably it exchanges and prefers "prominence" for "significance" in ill-informed public discourse), instead of "controlling or regulating" the Internet . . . we can STILL abolish it: who knows, maybe human beings will yet find and enjoy liberation from TECH TREADMILLS and TECH TYRANNIES . . . and how liberating might that be?

If you don't like the internet, then why do you go onto the internet to let us know about it?

Makes sense to me.

No steadfast fan of consistency and without declaring my commitments to logic, I find that the internet--despicable as it is for shortening and limiting perspectives on temporality--is itself nonetheless a fine platform from which to launch niggling doubts about the philanthropy of our lauded Tech Tyrants and pesky skepticism concerning the veracity of our loath--I mean, loved, Media Hegemons.

The internet, unfurled to become our global Potemkin village:

--dutifully conceals at least as much as it reveals to anyone . . .

--never "debases" reality yet somehow often succeeds in purveying deficient semantic fare, poor axiological estimates, bone-headed epistemic assumptions, and infantilizing/stultifying anthropological pabulum . . .

--succeeds in finding some of the world's most sophisticated algorithms for the benefit of all our devotees of all our numerous cults of celebrity, what charm . . .

--unleashes codes, apps, and devices in order to promote poor, inattentive, and hazardous driving . . .

--et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Fret not: I severely doubt I'll ever be in position to undermine the public's vast adoration and adulation of our global and glorious Potemkin village, no matter what or how much I wind up posting online.

Better yet, *remove* public policy that makes it difficult to travel or have kids.

You mean eliminate the laws and regulations requiring you pay others for providing the services you need and want to have kids and travel?

For example, the regulations added in the past 40 years requiring passports, visas, crossing only at border entrty points, etc, have made it much much much costlier to travel with kids.

Growing up in Indiana, in the 60s, Mexican families traveled to our farm communities several times a year between trips to other parts of the US farms, before returning home to Mexico for escape the snow and cold.

Trump is riding the "travel and kids must be so costly no one has kids or travels in the US like they did historically" political movement, ironic given his grandfather got stuck in the US because he was able to travell cheaply to the US, and in doing so lost his citizenship, and was forced to travel back to the cheaper US which did not impose the cost of military service.

It's the advertising model, stupid (to paraphrase Clinton's political advisor). Farhad Manjoo confirmed it in the NYT this weekend: "I’ll admit there’s something credulous and naïve embedded in my narrative so far. Let me get this straight, you’re thinking: A tech company wants to bring the world closer together? As social networks help foster misinformation and populist fervor across the globe, you’re right to be skeptical. But there is a crucial difference between Netflix and other tech giants: Netflix makes money from subscriptions, not advertising." https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/opinion/sunday/netflix-oscars.html With the advertising model, social media maximizes revenues by stoking anger and connecting angry people with like-minded angry people. Users of social media are being manipulated for profit, manipulated in a way that makes the users unhappy and the tearing apart the social fabric. Social media is equivalent to opioids in the damage being inflicted, except with social media, the damage is far broader.

What Netflix understands is the theory of consolidation. Netflix, once you enter the website, is ugly as a tree. Google and Facebook do obviously try to brainwash their users. The nostalgia of old picture is exactly what Facebook is built around, and I'm tired about hearing about meet up groups. Go outside, go to a park, talk to someone at a coffee shop. Facebook cannot go on unless it accepts some lessons learned by Amazon and Google.

This is an excellent column. Thank you.

When thinking about these incentives you always need to ask, what types of people will respond? There is already a large group of people who have no trouble nor qualms in having children despite lack of finances, poor planning, and little chance of marriage. They expect the state to pick up the slack. And there are those that Tyler is trying to reach, who overvalue short term gains and career over a family. Do we know what policies work that affect the latter without doing much to incite the former to create more wards of the State?

They expect the state to pick up the slack.

How do you know what they expect? In reality, the state enthusiastically embraces this role even if certain members of the general population do not. Ultimately, everyone is a ward of the State in some form or another, like it or not.

Make it cheaper and easier to have and raise children. Use the education system to support more study trips abroad.

My first reaction is for the average family having more kids makes it a lot harder to travel. Modest changes to making traveling eaiser and having more kids will have VERY modest effects to be honest.

Depositing $100,000 per month in the bank account of all US citizen women between the age of 21 and 50 would both make it cheaper for women to have more children AND travel to ensure their children are exposed to great diversity in living expensively among people who have low incomes.

This would be a better foriegn aid program, paying what will seem low wages to the US citizen women, but extremely high wages in the majority of the world. Thus meeting Tyler's "cheaper" criteria.

Would these be satisfying policy responses to the opiate epidemic?

Not saying that the "addiction" is of the same type or severity.

Long-term solutions matter (avoiding the human equivalent of "rats in a cage that get more easily addicted to herion"). But I do think some tactical "immediate" solutions to avoiding and giving up these short-term phone/internet fixes would be effective and useful.

The smartest people in the world are being highly compensated to make people obsessed with their phones. I wouldn't bet against them. Especially if we're putting our faith in policy makers to pass pro-natalist legislation.

'I wouldn't bet against them'

Neither would the author of a book coming out on April 9, titled 'Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero'

Here's my issue with "happiness" studies. How do you study the levels of something that does not have a unique definition? I think Feynman (correctly) opposed such a study being called science.

That's my objection as well. What makes one happy, and how one defines happiness, are notoriously difficult to pin down, and therefore notoriously difficult to study.

If these people think that having kids ensures a greater degree of happiness, they must live in a more ideal world than the one I live in. Stress from child-rearing is a major contributing factor in divorce, for example, which I imagine increases unhappiness. Children also have free will, and can get into trouble, leading to a great deal of unhappiness. As for travel, I imagine these folks consider "travel" to be staying in three-star hotels and above. Less glamorous travel can seriously contribute to unhappiness--diseases, lost/stolen property, injury, even potential death aren't exactly unheard of.

I'm going to file this under "Author believes that if we all would simply live the life he wants, we'd live in Utopia" and move on.

too sophisticated for kids, IMHO:

Sorry that is: aspects of social media are too sophisticated...

The real problem with social media is that it uses our instincts for social status competition as a means to get people "addicted". People get feelings of social approval from "likes" and from having followers. The more likes and followers you have, the higher your status. The fewer likes and followers and "friends", the lower your status. Indeed, look around, you can find numerous websites where participation is explicitly rewarded in terms of "badges" or other status markers. Wikipedia practically runs on free labor because the social status that comes with being a respected wikipedia editor is such a powerful inducement to so many people.
When people use social media, they naturally compare themselves to other people, they see how many likes and followers and friends they have, and so they can tell what they social ranking is, and they're inclined to try to increase the number of friends and followers and like by posting things that will win them more of them. That's how it addicts people - by playing upon our social insecurities and our desire to be higher status. Consequently, it amplifies social anxiety, which in turn makes people *more* addicted. To maintain your social media status you have to constantly be posting to keep your followers/friends attention. It's a treadmill driven by status anxiety.

That's why so many social media postings comprise virtue signalling. That's why people feel compelled to reply to negative comments - because they perceive those comments to be status lowering. That's why teenage girls are driven to suicide by it - nothing's more important to a teenage girl than her social status.

How should we respond?
Hide all the likes and followers and friends from people other than the user. If people can't see how many followers other people have, they can't compare status, so they have no basis to feel anxiety over whether other people are getting more friends than them.

Sorry but I also think that a pinch of public policy couldn't hurt around this.

I dunno. I hope society can figure this one out by itself. Perhaps there will be some sort of mental health anti-social media movement where people will promote alternative websites that are more mental-health-friendly.
There's a lot of room for evolution out there. Maybe people will just grow out of this Twitter bullshit.

I just want to point out the irony of responding with '+1' to Hazel's comment.

Which was, in fact, quite good, btw.


Yes and given my life-long search for irony, you can imagine how fulfilled I am now

-1 for inappropriate sarcasm.

+1, because I imagined the above said in the voice of Marvin the Robot.


I don’t have anything pithy, it just made me laugh.

I'm so glad I don't give two sh!ts about social status competition. I just make money. Lots of money. If you like or hate me for that, that's your problem.

and be happy you're not an adolescent girl

Average TV watching time per day is around 5 hours and society is collapsing because young people are distracted l
on their phones.

The real addicts are invisible because they're at home. It's not the young people on the street or public spaces

Perhaps youtubers, influencers and simmilars are the most vulnerable population. Who gets the most depressed when the like count is poor?

All i know is I use social media or read something on my iPhone and I end up feeling lethargic and vaguely unhappy. And I think that is on purpose.

Future labour supply production for thee, but not for me.

I hate traveling and I hate children. No thanks.

Then please do not reproduce or leave your town.

I did read the whole thing. But why are long-term memories more important than short-term satisfaction? Why wouldn't it be better theoretically to have had a life almost 100% full of short-term happiness, even though we didn't end up having any especially great memories during or at the end of it? It's not clear to me why the memories or the 'satisfaction' should be important if I am extremely busy whooping it up.

Another issue is that these are presented as either/or choices. You can either opt for long-term memories OR for short-term happiness. But what about situations that provide both? For example, I take a great deal of pleasure in doing things around the house--I enjoy those little five-minute fixes that home ownership necessitates. I also have three children, and can use these short projects to teach them--providing long-term memories.

The issue is that this is economic thinking applied to psychology, which is as asinine as applying nuclear physics to planning a grocery list. It's an expert speaking in an area well outside their field, which is always and notoriously dangerous.

“Why wouldn't it be better theoretically to have had a life almost 100% full of short-term happiness, even though we didn't end up having any especially great memories during or at the end of it? “

Sure. In theory anything is possible. In practice it seems that anyone who consistently whoops it up — or devotes themselves to unreflective pleasure seeking — ends up unhappier than those who punctuate fun with stoic or buddhistic reflection (and reflection can be pleasurable). It is after all only mere animals who reside in the present of gratification.

It should be noted that Stoics redefined their target--it's neither happiness nor pleasure, not even satisfaction. When you have to re-define things to that extent, something has gone sideways (I leave it to the reader to find out what). The Buddhists are worse.

Can someone link me to a study saying kids help long term satisfaction?

As someone with an interest in compound interest from an intellectual standpoint, I think you should perhaps think about negative forms of compound interest.

Checking Twitter once or a few times a day probably isn't harmful, but what about filling every available moment of potential solitude with an electronic distraction? What are the implications for people who are almost never just alone with their thoughts? When you train your brain to constantly want to know what's happening or to constantly seek out another like or heart?

What happens when you do that for 30 years? The compound effects could add up over a lifetime to quite a bit of unfulfilled life or lost productivity.

And as an economist, shouldn't the question be "at what margin should you use social media less"?

For me, social media was mainly crowding out thinking, reading books, and enjoying experiences (instead of photographing them). I removed the FB, Twitter, and Instagram apps from my phone and yes there was some psychic withdrawal, but no, not like nicotine or opiate withdrawal.

At a certain margin, they will probably cause depression or anxiety.

But if you're at the "this is fun but doesn't detract from my productivity or lessen my amount of human interaction margin", then yeah, of course have fun.

Anyway, I think you should read Cal Newport's "Digital Minimalism" if you haven't already. He'd be a good guest for Conversations with Tyler too.

I’m hopeful that, just as we escaped the witch trials, McCarthy and Occupy, we will figure our way out of the jam we’re in with social media. This too shall pass.

Comments for this post are closed