Tuesday assorted links


'The value of free digital goods.'

Finally, RMS is getting the credit he deserves here.

Who am I kidding? Stallman cares about freedom, not 'free digital goods.' Though his story is a free digital good too, for those interested in libertarian SF in the Heinlein vein, where his vision of a future ruled by B-B still seems quite realistic. https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

While Stallman was a force good, he wasn't completely good. He was (is!) an absolutist. He does not believe in an author's right to classify his own work under any IP, license, or to the public domain. He wants everything rigidly "copyleft."

But perhaps when fear of that "all one thing" future dissipated, creativity was unleashed. Here's a really amazing piece from Microsoft:

Scaling from 2,000 to 25,000 engineers on GitHub at Microsoft

(I'm not sure how this really relates to "free as in beer" college, but OER are certainly free both ways. Free like beer and free for creative reuse.)

'He was (is!) an absolutist.'

Freedom kind of demands that, actually.

'He does not believe in an author's right to classify his own work under any IP, license, or to the public domain.'

As his expressed personal belief, that is not an exactly unfair summary (though ignoring that the GPL's power is explicitly based on copyright, and Stallman fully supports the GPL being enforceable). In terms of the FSF classifying a license as free, that is absolutely incorrect. A fact exploited by Apple using the BSD license (which is considered a free license essentially - https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html.en#GPLCompatibleLicenses) so as to have zero obligation to actually help anyone else make use of work based on the contributions of others.

"Freedom" might actually demand that we respect the author's intentions for his work.

Have you ever copyrighted anything?

I have. I've developed copyrighted software. I've also developed open source projects. If also put things explicitly into the public domain.

It was my freedom to do those things, as I felt appropriate to the project and the situation.

Demanding I use one legal artifact, the "copyleft" for anything I might possibly do is granting me a hell of a lot less freedom.

(And users are certainly free to search out solutions in any of these legal classes.)

"Demanding I use one legal artifact, the "copyleft" for anything I might possibly do is granting me a hell of a lot less freedom."


prior is opposed to profit, capitalism, copyright, and money in general. So of course he thinks any software you make should be free for him to use.

I am not opposed to profit, capitalism as a broad idea (one distinct from things like surveillance capitalism or disposable consumer capitalism, admittedly), am a giant fan of copyright (though with a limited term as originally intended in the Constitution). and have no problem with money, specifically or generally.

'So of course he thinks any software you make should be free for him to use.'

Of course I don't think such an absurd thing, which might come from working for an ERP company for a quarter century.

Just because you type something, doesn't mean we believe you.

And any typed falsehood is not automatically believed, but that relates more to Prof. Cowen's next post.

And of course, the GPL is only effective due to copyright.

Stallman strongly preaches his view but he is not an absolutist. He isn't telling you what to do rather he is telling you what he would do and why it is better:

"Releasing free software under a non-copyleft free software license is basically good (i.e., not evil), but that using copyleft is better."


'Have you ever copyrighted anything?'

Everything written is automatically copyrighted under the Berne Convention, which the U.S, has harmonized with since 1989. This reality is where Creative Commons comes from. And yes, I have copyrighted material. (Including these comments, oddly enough - everything expressive is automatically copyrighted under restrictive terms, unless the creator explicitly attaches different licensing.)

'Demanding I use one legal artifact, the "copyleft" for anything I might possibly do is granting me a hell of a lot less freedom. '

Apart from Stallman, who is quite an absolutist, who is 'demanding' that you not use whatever license you wish? I could care less what license you use, for example.

Sorry, I thought you were extolling Stallman the absolutist.

And my argument/link was that less absolutism might lead to more progress.

Free goods could also include things like facebook, the photo sites, and google stuff to consumers (they charge businesses) like gmail, search and the office apps, maps, etc.

The abstract isn't clear which.

5. I'm more interested in what you think of Alaska. On the one hand, they want to run the state on the cheap (without sales or income tax, relying on oil revenues), but on the other .. I wonder if it's a populist turn against higher ed?

Maybe I shouldn't ask Tyler, you guys already regularly call him an "elite" for leaving the middle class via education. He should have been born with a sliver spoon up his butt. Then, then, he could lead a populist movement.

It's almost as if the people who object most to the elite consensus and are heard are often those who are rather troublesomely born into it and have no need to kowtow to its conventions and its dominant (and hereditary dominant) persons to win a voice in our media...

Maybe you should give some concrete examples, because it seems to me that the "born middle class and went through college" demographic is (1) hugely diverse, and (2) not "elite" in any meaningful sense.

It's become a nonsense word, to dispell any uncomfortably rational argument. "You believe in global warming, comparative advantage, or maintaining a healthy body weight? Elitist!"

You're kind of broadening out from the proposition that "Tyler Cowen, influential journalist and popularizer of economics, economics professor at George Mason University is safe to describe as elite" to the proposition "Any person born middle class who finished college is part of a social elite".

The latter of which is not really a proposition worth too much of a defense or argument too much worth engaging!

In general, my view is that when people are described as "elite", they generally are part of the top 10-25% of society (judging by most measures of "success" and social standing), or are indistinguishable in credentials, goals and values from those that are, with the distinguishable bits being mainly luck or the place they are in their life history (which of course don't really matter too much if you're talking about their political values). It seems to me to be used with a reasonably sensible meaning (more sensible than to suggest that one must be a plutocrat or in the top 0.1% before it is permissible to describe a person as part of the elite).

Ok, that's fine. But for what it's worth I think an "elite" has to be something smaller. Say less than 3% .. and I think at the 0.1% you do get the unparalleled wealth and power that makes the term unambiguous.

Top 25% .. from my perspective that a class, but not an elite.

#5 Asking the wrong question. Here's what I really want to know...

Why does it overwhelmingly seem that despite higher literacy and increasing college attendance and cost we appear to be getting dumber and reaping far fewer results from 'the better educated'? Some of the most significant inventions and powerful ideas were created in a span of roughly 110 years between 1840 and 1950, many by people with no formal education whatsoever. Furthermore, in spite of all the education we're turning out people seemingly less capable of the tasks for which they were educated, not more. What is causing this? Emphasis on 'publishing or dying' or careerism? A transition of education in general from a functional to a positional good?

Regardless of who's paying, never before in history (I propose...) are so many people paying so much and spending so much time for so little, regardless of your factoring overall lifetime earnings...of which many colleges are now essentially in many cases taking one quarter of your 'lifetime' earnings if you happen to become a millionaire.

I would argue that the new stuff we have in 2019 is better than the new stuff in 1950. Jetpacks, rockets, solar-powered airplanes, cellphones that double as computers, the ability to autograph books from a distance... Sure, innovation might be less present, but claiming that the early 1900s had better stuff is wrong, right?

And, you might characterize us as "less capable" but if we are inventing more cool stuff, and if our productivity is increasing, wouldn't that be an indication that we are becoming more capable?

I didn't ask if stuff was 'better' or not, especially considering an argument could be made that iterative development actually leads to diminishing returns, not vice versa. But yes, I see your point kind of.

My ultimate question was do you think you're getting $250,000 of value from a mid-to-high 4 year undergraduate degree (this obviously does not count post-grad)? And btw productivity 'is increasing' is very subjective...I have seen stats going in either direction.

So once again, would you rather spend 4 years on the degree and amortized debt or half the price of a very nice new house?

Only a chump would spring for a quarter mil $ for a degree from a private college when you can get the equivalent from a quality state school for the cost of a mid-price auto, unless you're looking for social status instead of an education.

"Why does it overwhelmingly seem that despite higher literacy and increasing college attendance and cost we appear to be getting dumber and reaping far fewer results from 'the better educated'? "

Well the premise of one of Tyler's biggest books was that we've picked the low hanging fruit, so rapid progress requires more effort than in the past. That being said, you can't ignore the fact that the world has made enormous progress over the last 40 years. Extreme poverty has dropped from roughly 1/3rd of world population in 1990 to less than 10% today.

There are probably some aspects here where:

a) edges from education are mostly used up by wasteful competitive signalling and status games

b) more education generally means more ability for organisations to go "slack" in their institutional discipline and culture and still get results - you get more decay in some aspects of the organisation as things seem to mostly keep on working as they were before, and there is a great forgetting that improving credentials are meant to mean improving output and quality.

c) most credentials simply don't provide more useful skills and messily signal what a 20 minute conversation would have in 1945. growth is lower in those areas of education which produced the "best" (non-elite enrollment expanding by many factors over elite enrollment).

I can't say that these explain anything, but I'd guess that they're some of it.

6: There have only been 10 7-footers in NBA history who have played for more than five seasons and averaged more than 20 points per game in their career

Wow, I wouldn't have guessed that. I don't watch the NBA, so maybe I'm missing something, but that number seems surprisingly low. 7' guys not terribly durable?

In the not too near future, we will have shooting guards at 7 foot. Bet!

The distinction between shooting guards and any other position have broken down, so that's not exactly a stretch. In the future, every player will be shooting guard for 15 minutes (or more, depending on the circumstances).

I might be splitting hairs but Durant is listed at 6' 9", though that height is fictional since otherwise Durant would have been typically considered too tall to be a small forward at his actual(?) height of 6' 10.75". In any case, he is unlikely a true 7 footer. Too bad the NBA doesn't enforce accurate listed heights. Maybe in the increasingly positionless NBA, height-stigma will allow for that in the future.

Tyler, you should give an update on your views on the war. Everyone has.


2. I suppose it depends on the meaning of "is", or in this case, on the meaning of "inflation". Relying on rising asset prices for prosperity has confused even the smartest economists. I recall one smart economist who actually suggested that raising interest rates is expansionary. What was he thinking? Well, he was thinking that low interest rates were not inducing investment in productive capital, so why not create an illusion of economic growth (i.e., rising interest rates) to induce investment in productive capital. We will never know if that contrarian economist was right because every time the Fed tries to raise interest rates, asset prices fall and the Fed retreats to lower interest rates.

FDR was half right. We have nothing to fear but deflation, itself.

I don't blame the Phillips' Curve.

I blame the ("Wrong Way" Harrigan comes to mind.) Fed whose policy actions have been 90% (I'm being charitable) wrong since 1913.

For example, in June 2006, Fed policy-makers boosted the target for federal funds rates to 5.25 percent, as had been widely expected, putting the overnight bank lending rate at its highest since January 2001. Had the Federal Reserve gone too far in raising interest rates? That quarter-percentage point hike was the Fed's 17th straight rate increase.

We all know what happened in 2007 and 2008.

Fast forward to July 2019. US inflation has been below target. After nine (nearly all under President Trump: one in December 2015; one in 2016, three in 2017; four in 2018) Fed funds rate target rises from December 2015 to January 2019, from 0%-0.25% to 2.5% (the UST 10 year was 1.98 intra-day today); the prime rate rose from 3.25% to 5.5%. We have an inverted yield curve.

Was the Fed trying to build 500 basis points cushion to cut rates in an economic downturn?

No other CB on the planet did this. On the contrary, they maintained zero and near zero interest rates.

If 2006 to 2008 were a guide, in a year or so we'll see if the Fed has touched off another Great Recession.

#4...This seems very important to me, but I'm not qualified to say so. The last ten years have seen developments in heritability and also brain function that are, from my general reader perspective, amazing. As well, I've just read a book detailing new ways of fighting infections by introducing other bacteria into the environment that can outcompete bacteria harmful to us for the resources necessary to survive. Science doesn't strike me as slowing down.

If Durant doesn't play next year, then he most likely will a shell of the player he was. At this point, his return isn't expected until the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

Comments for this post are closed