Thursday assorted links

1. Whose advice should you take?

2. Buddhists go to war (NYT): “But Buddhism, whose adherents make up only 7 percent of the global faithful, is the only major religion whose population is not expected to grow in absolute numbers over the next few decades…”

3. Taiwan’s status is a geopolitical absurdity.

4. Minimum wage effects and monopsony?

5. My *Big Business* podcast with Michael Baranowski.

6. How Prohibition came about.  And how Prohibition ended.


The so-called Taiwan (Formosa, actually) is a rebel province. It is a legitimate part of Brazil. It was named and rules by the Portuguese, it was a legitimate part of the United Kingdom of Brazil, Portugal and Algarves, whose successor state was the Empire of Brazil, whose successor state was the United States of Brazil, whose successor state is the Federative Republic of Brazil.

Wouldn't it be fun if China took note of your ravings and decided that Taiwan and Brazil should indeed be part of one and the same political entity.

Greater Brazil?

The Greatest!

Brazil is already a de facto province of China since Brazilians (being weak and servile by nature) bow and worship the Yellow Spectre.


"We find that more concentrated labor markets - where wages are more likely to be below marginal productivity - experience significantly more positive employment effects from the minimum wage. While increases in the minimum wage are found to significantly decrease employment of workers in low concentration markets, minimum wage-induced employment changes become less negative as labor concentration increases, and are even estimated to be positive in the most highly concentrated markets."

That's a fascinating finding that explains a lot of the contradictory results that appear in minimum wage research.

I think it's pretty close to: "Minimum wage raises below the area effective minimum wage have little impact." which has been the most logical explanation I've seen previously.

If sheep have inclinations, then dreams and nightmares are a factor of an ecological preference, such that actions and thoughts are identical but not symmetric, that is magnetic. It is when we perform, we are most ourselves, though what a human considers providence an animal calls logic. What a human requires in privacy an animal calls instinct.

Could minimum wages create monopsony situations by concentrating this labor segment into larger firms who can afford the wage increases?

Yes, that was an outcome. Decentralized hiring is hurt the worst, they have little pricing power. Gains go to the monopsony.

By the way, this is a common principle with government programs. large nationwide government programs always favor the monopsony.

"I think it's pretty close to: "Minimum wage raises below the area effective minimum wage have little impact." which has been the most logical explanation I've seen previously"

What does not make sense to me is that some individuals are far less productive than others doing even the same simple job. In my particular experience washing dishes (I was great BTW very fast) in restaurants some dishwashers can push through 2 or 3 times as many dishes as others. And I've known some very low productivity people who can never hold a job. One friend was mentally ill and slow due to the meds he took and so was very much against he minimum wage.

I think you have to envision wages as a process to get to the difference. For example, while A & B might both be hired on at the exact same minimum wage, if B is more productive than A, he'll probably get raises and promotions quickly. If not he'll probably go work somewhere else.

So, it's not the wage at the moment that matters, as it is the average wages over an extended period.

" (I was great BTW very fast)"

Yep, and you probably work somewhere else for a lot more money now.

"1. Whose advice should you take?"

"‘even well-intended advisers often advise others to act differently than they choose for themselves.’"

Well I'm going to give you some unsolicited general advice, that according to the article you shouldn't take. ;)

Always ask someone if they are doing what they are advising and take that into consideration. But sometimes the advice is still good.

Heavy smoker: "Don't start smoking, kid".

Sometimes it's not:

"You should always pay off your highest interest debt first!"

Most people do better by paying off their debts by size, smallest to largest. The psychological success of paying off a debt entirely trumps the small advantage of interest rate differentials.

“I go to this doctor, I saw him, it doesn’t matter—I went through black and white sheep, this reoccurring nightmare where I get paid for a job even though I don’t know how to do the work, and I’m not technically doing anything, and it’s like I’m playing hide and seek from the nightmare,

Take my advice and don't take my advice.

#6 Prohibition

Federal alcohol Prohibition required a formal Constitutional amendment to grant the government such highly intrusive authority.
However, such legal formalities were totally ignored in the Federal Drug War & Schedule of prohibited drugs.

Also, alcohol Prohibition never really ended -- the Feds got mostly out of it but state governments were legally granted extensive local control over alcohol (still in legal force today). The states responded with various restrictions on alcohol, often severe and nonsensical.

All of that is false, except the bit about needing an Amendment.

Prohibition was repealed because government wanted the tax money. It's that simple, kids.

Sufficient numbers of Americans withheld their consent to be governed by Prohibition.

In earlier times before they buried the putrid corpse of liberty, the Constitution could not be subverted to impose totalitarianism on 'we the people.'

According to the author, prohibition required a populist movement, the income tax, WWI, and women's suffrage. Does anybody besides me believe three of four are horrors?

No, you're right on. The Progressive Era was awful.

Clearly the federal laws against drug possession, sale and use and the requiring of prescriptions are unconstitutional. Of course so are Social Security and Medicare.
I wish supporters of those laws would at least amend the constitution. I assume that they could easily do it for Social Security and Medicare as those are very popular.

Would you take the advise from our current regulators who base their risk weighted bank capital requirements on that what bankers perceive as risky is more dangerous to bank systems than what bankers perceive as safe?

6. How prohibition ended (the second link appropriately titled Dry Humor) is a great read. The sheer number of causes is staggering, including the financial crisis in 1929 and the collapse of asset prices and inequality: the formerly wealthy couldn't afford the expensive but illegal spirits any longer and worked alongside the not wealthy for repeal and lower priced but "safe" spirits. Who knew that excessive inequality was partly responsible for prohibition, as the wealthy enjoyed their special status during prohibition to obtain quality spirits not available to the common man, who was forced to drink tainted (and sometimes intentionally poisoned) spirits. I suppose the lesson here is that every man is just like every other man when it comes to spirits.

Another fascinating subject is the loopholes during prohibition. I often wondered why alcohol was sold at pharmacies when I was a child (rarely the case today). Now I know the history: physicians could issue scripts for alcohol for medicinal purposes. Thus, the old saw that one drinks solely for medicinal purposes. Another fascinating subject is the continued corruption once prohibition was repealed, totally legal corruption, such as the three tier system in many states, the middle tier the wholesaler/distributor who adds essentially nothing except a markup, the license for which (issued by the state) was (and continues to be) extremely valuable, creating an enormous incentive for graft.

Look at Canada and watch how the market for "medicinal marijuana" is rapidly drying up after recreational use was fully legalized. Same story.

3. Perhaps there are worse fates for a state than being a "geopolitical absurdity"... ;)

Is there a better equilibrium than "deliberate ambiguity" when it comes to Cross-Strait relations?

The Atlantic is a journalistic absurdity.

Taiwan exists. Get over it.

in January 1955, the U.S. House and Senate passed the “Formosa Resolution,” granting Eisenhower the authority to use military force to defend Taiwan “as he deems necessary.”

I have to agree, I don't see what the article's point is. Yes Taiwan has an unusual, maybe even absurd, geopolitical existence but Horton does indeed need to "get over it" and think outside the box: not all geopolitical entities are going to fit into his neat theoretical notions of what a nation-state should be.

The place that truly has an absurd geopolitical existence right now is Hong Kong. A thriving democratic city-state was placed under the (partial) control of an authoritarian regionally hegemonic state. The inherent tension, even inconsistency, of that situation shows itself continually as China's government creeps up its authority and Hong Kong residents with varying success try to resist. Talk about a disequilibrium situation.

The point of the article is (1) to attract eyeballs to The Atlantic and (2) to allow The Atlantic's editors and writers to indulge their fantasy that they could run the world better than the people currently doing it.

It wasn’t a democracy under the Brits, that happened under Chinese control.

Didn't the Brits give them democracy as a parting poke-in-the-eye

6. The article mentions nothing about the ratification process of the 21st amendment, which repealed Prohibition. Alone among all the 27 amendments, it was passed by state ratifying conventions rather than by state legislatures.

That probably indicates that it would have been blocked by political maneuvering in the state legislatures. The senator Morris Sheppard may have had that in mind when he boasted that "There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."

We are living in interesting times. I wonder if we'll live to see some new constitutional amendments rammed through at record speed using this method.

No need for it now... the Supreme Court amends the constitution all the time.

You still have to get amendments through Congress first and that appears to be where the bottleneck lies.

"Before the Civil War, the average adult white male drank nearly two bottles of whiskey a week – about 90 bottles a year. By modern accounting, that amount of daily consumption, even spread over an eight hour period, would be more than twice the legal limit for driving – and more than three times the average consumption today."

I don't see how that's possible. For much of history people drank large quantities of weak beer and wine. But spirits? Even from someone who sips the occasional whiskey, why?

As long as they stayed away from tequila and sake, the real trouble drinks

Yes, I wonder if there have been changes in definitions or labels. Maybe the tabulators were counting hard cider as "whiskey" in those days. Or maybe bottles were smaller in those days. That's a lot of potent spirits to be drinking.

According to this source:

"When Rorabaugh writes “three and a half gallons of alcohol,” he’s talking about 3.5 gallons of pure ethanol ... To convert that into a more graspable figure, that’s 8.75 gallons of standard, 80-proof liquor per year for the average person by the time of the American revolution."

"By the 1820s, whiskey sold for twenty-five cents a gallon, making it cheaper than beer, wine, coffee, tea, or milk.”

"By 1830, alcohol consumption reached its peak at a truly outlandish 7 gallons of ethanol a year per capita. Via Okrent: In modern terms, those seven gallons are the equivalent of 1.7 bottles of a standard 80-proof liquor per person, per week—nearly 90 bottles a year for every adult in the nation"

"Well, the best figure for the current American alcohol consumption rate seems to be roughly 2.42 gallons of ethanol per year, per capita—still a healthy figure, but nearly three times less per capita than in 1830."

Good Times!

8.75 gallons *128 is 1,120 ounces/year.

3.1 ounces per day.

Its easily possible, the amount described are well below average for my typical "alcoholic" frequent flyer.

As far as why … remember the times. Work was manual and for the bottom portions of society that meant repetitive tasks, often with minimal hope of advancement. Being drunk made life much more bearable. Further, prior to the cultural changes described there were only religious scruples regarding drunkenness really in play. As far as whiskey, there were several things going for it: it could be produced more easily from corn which saw a very large increase in productivity in the latter 19th century (with a large drop in price), it could be transported more cheaply, and at high potency you could more easily get a buzz off a quick drink.

Frankly, I have my doubts that we will not eventually return to some sort of norm of this level of drinking. I treat far too many people whose alcohol consumption is limited only by monetary concerns; I see little sign that equilibrium for risky drinkers (e.g. those who meet alcohol use disorder criteria) is going to stop short of 19th century levels in the coming decades.

Agreed. America at the times was a land of pioneers on the prairie. Life was a hardscrabble struggle against the elements and winter was cold and harsh with really nothing to do for weeks on end. Or so I gather.

I own a cottage. I’ll go there and drink beer while working 10 hour days (gardening, digging, moving dirt, fencing, building ... you name it).

And like most of us, I’m weak compared to our hardy ancestors, who worked harder, longer.

That job might give you a skewed perspective. For what it's worth I heard a couple Trader Joe's employees talking about "two bottles of gin guy" (every Monday) and "two bottles of vodka guy" (every Friday) like they were unusual, to say the least.

Anyway, from my perspective it doesn't sound like fun.

Says .. one gallon of coffee a week guy.

"But spirits? Even from someone who sips the occasional whiskey, why?"

Spirits are cheap because they can be made by distilling otherwise repulsive fermentation products. Also, their concentration and shelf-stability makes for efficient trade and transport.

#3) "the sale of military equipment began to slow after a deal in 1992 in which George H. W. Bush sold 150 F-16 jet fighters to Taipei....Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama were largely deferential. They were reluctant to approve large or regular arms deals to Taiwan, out of fear of angering Beijing."

So, how has that policy worked: Is Beijing more or less belligerent now, following 24 yrs of "deference"?

Peace through Strength --- another lesson that seems to have been forgotten in our Great Forgetting. We didn't win the Cold War by being "largely deferential" to the Soviets.

It's interesting that Trump of all people has been the President most closely adhering to US law on both moving the US embassy in Israel and selling arms to Taiwan. US law has required moving the embassy in Israel for 20+ years, that law receiving over 90% support in both the Senate and House. The Taiwan Relations Act requires that arms sales decisions be "based solely upon [the President's and Congress's] judgment of the [defense] needs of Taiwan," i.e., "deference" to China cannot be one of the criteria as a matter of US law. Whenever one finds that Trump respects the Rule of Law more than oneself, one might want to re-evaluate one's own stances.

"requires that arms sales decisions be "based solely upon [the President's and Congress's] judgment of the [defense] needs of Taiwan,".

I see. It means that American interests don't matter. Decisions must be taken based "solely" on Taiwanese interests. No, I don't think anyone would ever take seriously such an interpretation. Least of all Trump. He wants to support Taiwan to spite Chine, which is his right, but has nothing tomdo with "the rule of Law". But, if Taiwan is not satisfied, maybe it should buy from other countries.

"It means that American interests don't matter."

No, it means that the US President can't place Chinese interests over US law. If the President doesn't want to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress, then he shouldn't be President.

I see. The only consderation is Taiwanese interests. Well, get over the fact that American presidents are elected by Americans, pal, not from Chinese from either side of the Strait..

1. Another meta link quoting this blog favorably. Of late there are quite a few of these links , compared to the more interesting ones.

6. The utter disinterest of local authorities in enforcing federal laws prohibiting alcohol in the 1920s has its counterpart today, with states legalizing marijuana in defiance of federal laws which still prohibit it, or sanctuary cities refusing to cooperate with ICE.

So I wonder what would happen if radical progressive Democrats came to power and managed to pass national gun control legislation. Would entire counties or entire states simply ignore it?

Conservatives are generally considered law-abiding. What would happen if they adopted the kind of defiant tactics generally associated with the left?

1) My dad had a knack for calming people down and starting a discussion in which the advice would ultimately come out of the person's own mouth rather than his. That seems to add to the credibility or weight of the advice.

But this worked much better with men than the women he knew, so I'm wondering about the sexual dynamics of giving and receiving advice. The blogger here mentions his wife giving him advice but I don't think he addressed advice going in the other direction

Since we pay respects today to the late Jim Bouton and Ball Four, it's worth noting that Daniel Okrent wrote one of the great nitty-gritty business-of-baseball books, Nine Innings

@Tyler- unfortunately I will have to send you to the penalty box so you can feel your two minutes of shame for linking to an article that recommends one of your books. You could have at least added “self-recommended” to the link.

Maybe someone had been tippling just a bit too much before writing this - 'a problem exasperated when rumrunners hired the same shipyards as the government to build faster boats.'

2) As a Christian married to a Buddhist, I can attest that it's an uphill climb trying to convince a Buddhist spouse to have another child.


I am Wilse from Austin, TX, I find it a disgrace that Brazil, Bolsonaro and Donna Brazile don't receive the respect they have earned.

And when are we going to give the Red Chinese and the Japanese fascists their due?

Stop that sockpuppeting. I am the only one that is supposed to make inane remarks about Red Brazil and Incompetent China.



Still my favorite MR character. Real or Sockpuppet.

Just seems like people go on this blog to vent their frustrations and bitch about the world in a very angry and polemic way, with more an assertion of power and authority than collaboration and progress.

Very true, yet paradoxically one of the main reasons I read MR is for the comments, it has more good comments than that vast majority of sites on the web.

Although that may be more of a sad commentary on the web, than a positive aspect of MR.

+1 I actually think anonymous observer's comment is naive, in that innovations and/or paradigm shifts are largely borne in a "back and forth" process.

#1: Higher education seems to have a whole genre of essays about giving -- and not giving -- advice. Two lessons that I've learned from that literature: giving unsolicited advice is often ... inadvisable. And if someone asks you for advice, they often do not want advice at all, they want support.

I have a dim recollection of reading a good essay that said instead of offering advice, we should offer ... unfortunately I forget what the superior alternative was. Coaching or counseling or conversation/support, something like that.

"Never read journalism written in the future tense": that's one of the most useful time-saving bits of advice.

I also find it wise to stop reading if I encounter "American dream", "zombie", "special" or "very first".

#6 is very well written and interesting. Thanks.

As someone who has been a committed Christian for nearly a century, (well not really close to a century but much much closer to 100 than zero) I have known many many very happy people.

Also, as someone fluent in several European languages and capable, at a minimum, of making people laugh in at least one or two 'Asian' languages (footnote --- I do decline to think in those reductive terms, I am just trying to communicate), I gotta say ----

if I am not around to decide what religion my descendants will follow, if they are not born in a Judeo-Christian home to Judeo-Christian parents, please, God, let them be born in a Buddhist family ......

that being said, one can find, reading good quotes from the best adherents of most of the other great religions, or even reading the least bad quotes from that weird complex of sad loserdom we think of when we think of "agnosticism" ...

that being said ----- after almost a century on this earth (well I have been present for at least 8 out of 8 of the last 8 decades, if you are reading this anytime after midnight Guam time later this year - cheer up, you know what I mean!) ----I can say

God loves us all
wake up
God's plans for you are only slowed down by your plans for God ....
Forget your loserdom plans -----
wake up!
John 3:16
(poor Jordan Peterson says he "thinks" that by some miracle he found John 3:16 in a Gideon's Bible) (think about that)

I hope you are looking for a better word than sprezzatura, I mean I like that word, but that is not what I am striving for

(George MacDonald)

that is what I am striving for
give a beggar a five dollar bill instead of a quarter
bring a coffee to those people who try to keep women from entering abortuaries
volunteer at a local animal shelter
be kind to someone who was never kind to you
forgive the poor sad souls who lashed out at you in their despair and their sinfulness

remember Jesus only had 33 years to be a good person

it is likely you will have many more than 33 years


(and forget about me, if you do the right thing because I asked you to ....
you have no idea how many happy people I have met in my life .... I hope you will reach that number someday, I hope you already have reached that number)

"Numbers are my friends" Ramanujan

By the way, if you think I am just some not quite sane person on the internet who is just rambling ...

well, theoretically, there is a chance your observation is correct ....

but it is much more likely that the fact that

I point out things like this:

Jesus had only 33 years to do the right thing and you will likely have many more years than that
and I quote

things like this from George MacDonald in an appropriate and timely way

"I want to help you to grow as wonderful as God meant you to be when God thought of you first"

Look I do not expect you to read this and to rush off to the nearest church to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, or to call up an old friend who you lost touch with long ago and who now goes to a praise the Lord meeting every Sunday

but one day you may look back on these sad old internet bulletin boards and remember this

long after I am gone

I told you this


I remember

Pleasanton 1974

none of us (well almost none of us) really have any idea how many happy people those we talk to have met in their lives

Cor ad Cor loquitur

Cheer up
God loves you

I remember

Falstaff, too, is someone I remember
Poor little guy!

#3, sure. But a lot of things in geopolitics are absurdities, like:

1) People pretending the United Nations has any sort of legitimacy, power, or even moral authority.

2) People pretending the EU has a "democratic deficit", as if it weren't specifically and intentionally designed to be undemocratic.

3) People pretending that Gaza is occupied by Israel rather than an independent Palestinian state whose behavior proves the "two-state solution" is a bad joke.

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