Thursday assorted links


#2...I'd wager that the anecdote from the online dating exchange at the beginning was made up.

Probably, but I doubt anyone cares. That was clearly someone who was writing to a very specific audience.

Many years of writing and I don't recall a friend ever telling me anything that I could use to start off a story.

I think it is somewhat tongue in cheek. I'd only seen it mentioned (very widely on Twitter) for the housewife-as-UBI clkckbait. Skimming it now, it doesn't seem that .. unconventional. Blogs such as these have made the argument that a UBI is bad because it does undermine the welfare enhancing benefits of work. Of course, this blog might not be so on board with a government program for full employment(*), neither. So none of the above.

* - It might be easy to say "but we have that" in 2019, but think back to your policy opinions in say 2009.

"A capitalist state that holds the purse strings is far less accountable to its dependents than a husband [..] you cannot berate them when you are unhappy, you cannot go on strike by refusing to do their laundry or clean, and you certainly can’t poison their dinner. These are not tactics I am willing to forswear (a girl has to have options)."

Yeah, somewhat tongue in cheek.


UBI discourages work, and would primarily act to decrease the percentage of women in the workforce. This has far reaching implications. Studies show that decreasing the labor force participation of mothers with young children directly leads to fewer cisgender women executives, partners, and senior management in general.

This would lead to a larger gender wage gap, fewer women CEO’s, and would trade short term gain for a longer term justice based realignment of expectations of work-life balance. Women are much better off in the workplace when there is a balanced gender representation in senior management. Wages, sexual harassment claims, toxic environments and such.

Jobs guarantee is a much better proposal. Encourages work and creates a societal expectation in which all willing workers can find jobs. Also changes the baseline for work expectations for low paying jobs. Anything worse than the federal jobs would lead to an exodus. Private employers would have to create better working conditions for their employees. Also gives low paid workers the option of federal unionized work versus flipping burgers.

Win win.

Do you apply auto-asphyxia as you draft these things?

Actually a jobs guarantee has a double bad feature that the UBI doesn’t have.

It gives people a false sense of productivity as digging ditches that don’t need to be dug is a societal waste. Large Western European nation states have been impoverishing themselves with this kind of mal-investment for years.

It also tells citizens that it is perfectly ok to waste resources and be inefficient. Enshrining this behavior as a virtue is a horrific signal.

Oh and it also costs money in terms of compensating workers and paying for their “work”. It’s just a terrible policy.

A super charged EITC is still the best option along with putting more pressure on federal, state, and local governments to ease burdens on entrepreneurs, especially the low capitalized kind......

Publicly provided child care would increase women participation in the workforce.

However allowing more affordable nannies to legally immigrate into the US to keep the market price of nannies reasonable would not only increase women's participation in the workforce, but also would enhance the welfare of many globally poor people.

The online dating story may be BS. But at least she is honest in her political intentions. She wants a worker controlled economy with total power vested in unions and their leaders.

Sounds like a fate worse than a postwar house wife if you ask me....

The chilling honestly of the malicious intent of millennial socialists is at once laudable and totally scary. The only good news is the millennial left is awfully low in testosterone.

Good luck cattle herding African American males(the most capitalist group amongst the core democratic base) into your socialist-democracy gang....

About a year ago, I read a post (might have been on MR) about what apps and sites younger people were using and the 18 yo guy mentioned YouTube. Since then, I’ve found YouTube invaluable for all kinds of problems. My amateur radio transceiver came with a 178 page manual, but there were still things not explained - YouTube taught me how. Home projects, bike repair, using our RV - YouTube. Education - right up YT’s alley.

Many thumbs up.

I just had a car problem that three different mechanics could not solve -- including the dealership. And then I found the answer on Youtube.

Youtube is very useful on those rare to once in a life time DIY projects.

I replaced a fan motor on the A/C unit last summer. The unit that came in, delivered by Amazon in 48 hours, was a slightly different model number and it was mounted backwards with a different cable layout. I pulled up Youtube on my phone and found a video that explained that the older model was no longer in use, but you could "easily" unbolt the mounting unit and swap it around to fit. The video then showed you how to do it and how to run the shorter cable to fit.

I learned to cook many dishes. Now I'm having fun making my own bitters for drinks.

Welcome to 2019, hun. Glad you could join us.

I’ve learned so much on YouTube. I watched captivating multi-variable calculus lectures to supplement my mediocre real life professors. I’ve learned how to build DIY machines, repair houses, build a sawmill, auto repair, operate machine tools, you name it.

5. The NYT has consistently diverted blame from Boeing. In this long piece, the NYT blames bad pilots in the developing world ("a textbook failure of airmanship"). As for the defective design of the 737 Max (i.e., using the same low-slung wings of the old 737 and moving the new, much larger, more efficient engines forward on the wings so the engines wouldn't drag the ground, which caused the nose of the aircraft to pitch up, risking stall), the article says this: "Some at Boeing argued for an aerodynamic fix, but the modifications would have been slow and expensive, and Boeing was in a hurry. Its solution was to create synthetic control forces by cooking up a new automated system known as the MCAS to roll in a burst of double-speed nose-down stabilizer trim at just the right moment, calculated largely by angle of attack." One can only conclude that the NYT agrees with Cowen's homage to big business.

Very disappointed to read this. Most earlier analyses did point out Boeing's attitude not to make major structural changes. Easier to vent on third-world corruption and inefficiency.

¿Por que no los dos?

The piece laid a lot of the blame at Boeing's feet, while noting that more capable pilots could have easily avoided the crashes. Not sure what's wrong with implicating the bad pilots.

"Not sure what's wrong with implicating the bad pilots."

I think for some people it comes off as victim-blaming. After all, those pilots are dead. Also from a pragmatic viewpoint, Boeing is still around so it is better to focus on action there while dead pilots are unfixable.

I disagree with the author's take on "airmanship," and I disagree, in particular, with his hypothesis that "more capable pilots could have easily avoided the crashes. I think this is nothing less than simple fantasy. Fiction.

He seems to have a quality that dates back to the mythological beginnings of flight, a quality called hubris. A better example of airmanship begins with this question: "Could this have happened to me?" And it ends with humility.

Anyway, here's the other side of the story.

"his hypothesis that 'more capable pilots could have easily avoided the crashes.'"

But he provides evidence in favor of this hypothesis. Namely, that the same Lion Air plane with the same faulty angle of attack indicator didn't crash on an earlier flight because a pilot followed proper procedure.

He doesn't exonerate Boeing but simply points out that there were multiple failures outside of Boeing that contributed to the Lion Air crash: a faulty second-hand angle of attack indicator, failure by the airline to address this problem even after a flight crew became aware of it, and failure of the fated flight crew to follow correct procedure. The Ethiopian crew followed the correct procedure but, perhaps due to stress and confusion, simply forgot to throttle back and then proceeded to make other errors of judgment.

On the housewife’s were miserable view, is there any you know, actual data on this? My guess is that most of them were actually pretty happy with their lot, having no real aspirations beyond supporting their husband and kids.

My Mom was stay at home until I was 8 and seemed way happier with that then working (my dads illness forced her to work).

I think most women are probably a lot happier at home, especially if they have children with them.

"I think most women are probably a lot happier at home, especially if they have children with them."


My mom was a teacher in the 1950s & 60s and even though teaching gave her the same hours at home as us kids, she always felt guilty about being a working mom.

I am sure most are already aware of this, but apparently women are less happy now than the 1970s. So, I don't think the average housewife was more "utterly miserable" than now.

Most people don't have careers, they have shitty jobs. Are these dull jobs really such wellsprings of meaning? Even "career" type jobs like lawyering are, frankly, quite the bloody grind.

I recently listened to Russ Roberts and Daron Acemoglu agree about how much they love their jobs, and how they doubt people can find meaning without a career. These 0.001% of men have illustrious careers, and I am sure they would be worse off without them. But for the average person just working to get paid, I am less certain in a world of UBI they would miss their jobs at Walmart and Deloitte, where they scan barcodes and monkey with excel all day. That paid work is necessary for happiness might be one of those expedient illusions of the present.

People point out that unemployed people are unhappy. Suddenly all these brilliant economists forget about self-selection and reverse causality and omitted variables. I can think of an unemployed friend who is miserable - he also has crippling bipolar disorder which renders him unemployable, probably relevant to the analysis...

Maybe being suddenly unemployed after 20 years of work is jarring, and the responsibility of finding hobbies can be hard at first. But maybe people can think of some things to do with their free time beyond spreadsheets eventually. Yes, there is life beyond spreadsheets.

My mom was a homemaker and loved it. My wife is a homemaker and seems to be less happy in that role than my mom was, but still happier than when she had a paying job.

"On the housewife’s were miserable view, is there any you know, actual data on this?"

Doubt it. The linked article just quotes about Betty Friedan's book and accepts it as fact.

Forget about back then, long ago in 2015 Gallop surveyed mothers with children 18. 56% of them would prefer to be at home than working. Of women in general around 2/3rds would prefer not to have full time work with part-time employment being deemed the most ideal.

According to the research, for a majority of women staying at home is protective against depression and anxiety. The odds ratio for women working is >1 for the standard battery of mental health screens, but if memory serves that finding is of questionable significance.

As near as I can tell, back in 1950 the women who were actually miserable seems to fall into just a few buckets:

Those who are miserable regardless (kids will make me less depressed, no my career, no my equestrian hobby). Shockingly I have found all manner of people who have transitioned from working to stay-at-home without any change in their psychiatric symptoms. Almost like it might possibly have something to do with brain chemistry.

Those who were childless. Infertile women from that era recount absolutely horrific things about how they were judged and all but shunned to me.

Those who were rich and powerful, but wanted to be richer, more powerful, and to be taken more seriously. Like so much else in life, the wealthy and elitely educated took it upon themselves to speak for all women. So we ended up with society again kowtowing to the wishes of the elites for good or ill.

Certainly this is reflected by own network's experience with the recent changes in opening combat roles to women in the military. A vast supermajority of the female officers with whom I served appear to have had no desire to open combat arms. It made them liable to be forced into positions they didn't want, that men often covet, and that would most likely disrupt their planned careers (e.g. eight and out, all in a transferable skill; 20 in, but all in an MOS that keeps them stateside unless they went combat). Many quite reasonable and appropriate arguments could be made to open combat arms to women ... but my personal experience seems to dictate that the only women who wanted this were a small subset of career military who wanted to achieve flag rank and power.

Frankly it seems utterly crazy to me to suggest that UBI is the same as the typical stay at home wife. A 50s era housewife had life easy only in comparison to the grinding work of household chores required in the 30s. As we have broken up so many of the neighborhood functions supported by housewives, we have found it incredibly expensive to replace them. You might be able to make a case for the ultrawealthy housewives, but in that era the entertaining was easily what we expect event planners to do professionally today.

As always the elites get to self-actualize; the masses just have to work harder as social norms that supported the lives they preferred were undermined.

Seems like women having options and the freedom to choose is the obvious solution then.

They can make their own choice. Whether to have children, whether to marry, and whether to work. Not only is it the moral answer, it’s the welfare maximizing answer.

The corollary is my choice. Don’t ask me to pay for the choices of others. Don’t want to work? Fine with me, as long as my wallet isn’t touched.

Ehh, sounds good, but the problem with social norms is that changing them invariably leads to those who want to maintain them paying.

For instance, back in the day men were often paid more for the same labor as women as they needed to "support a family", and this was true. Very few women were supporting families and by paying the men more we reached a market equilibrium where families with a working woman priced others out of positional goods.

Once we changed that social norm, that unequal pay for equal was just because some members of society had greater obligations, we not surprisingly reached a new equilibrium. For a time around 40 or 50 years ago, dual income couples could afford much more than single income families. If your family formed in this era you often faced the choice between having the wife work or not being able to afford a nice house in a nice area. To whit, once we made it easier for women to choose to be financially independent, we ended up in a situation where prices rose and those who made other choices ended up paying more for the same outcomes.

Of course we also pay on the other side. If you buy the argument that more women working allows them greater financial freedom and hence makes them more likely to divorce, then this set of social changes results in more divorces and more children raised outside of married families. This has a well documented effect on crime rates and poverty levels. As a society, we end up paying more due to higher crime and more use of Medicaid, food stamps, and the like.

Social rules and norms are typically functional in some way. Changing them means that the function is lost and now someone else will need to pay.

Notably this goes the other way as well. When wealthy couples decide to have mom stay home and invest in the kids' education they get much better returns on juniors educational years and absent some countervailing difference, this pushes the children of dual worker families out of the running for elite colleges. And of course homeschooling (stay-at-home-parent) and private schooling (dual income) both can cause trouble for economies of scale in public schools for others (single parents).

Morality wise, sure you can make a strong case for letting others rise and fall on their own. In reality, you actions move other people from state A to state B when they otherwise would not. Certainly in pretty much all current societies we have all manner of common expenditures which make it utterly impossible for your choices not to effect my long run taxes.

2. The miserable stay at home housewives of the 1950s and 1960s, with "their comfortable homes with their comfortable allowances", are proof that UBI doesn't work? Allowances? That's an odd framing but I'm opposed to UBI so I don't really care about the framing. I have not paid much attention to Andrew Yang's campaign and, thus, didn't know UBI is his main plank and that young layabout males are his main supporters. I learned that about Yang in this article, and learned that he can eat an entire turkey leg without soiling his shirt or suit.

“Andrew Yang's campaign ... UBI is his main plank and that young layabout males are his main supporters”.

You classist!

Also, are there no older layabouts he can appeal to?

#2... "Even with Yang on the debate stage, UBI mostly remains the political equivalent of raw water, essentially an esoteric fad of pseudo-intellectual technocrats, libertarians, and the robber barons of Silicon Valley."

#2..That statement alone is evidence of an inability to reason as opposed to offering self-righteous nostrums. The author seems to envision a bunch of people sitting on their ass stupefied by life. Good luck pitching socialism.

don't think I care much what the host of a podcast that pulls my salary every month on patreon (for ~2 hours of work a week) has to say about UBI

2. There are way more things people can do in their free time today compared to mid-century. I have never been bored since childhood. And a UBI doesn’t mean people wouldn’t work at all; they’d have the flexibility to work less. I’d guess that most people would be happier and do more things in life that feel meaningful (and lots of good video games feel more meaningful than work) if they were working 20 hours a week instead of 40 or 50.

Also, glad to see Jacobin admit that “A capitalist state that holds the purse strings is far less accountable to its dependents than a husband.” This is exactly why I’m a libertarian. The state is the most unaccountable institution to the individual. If you’re screwed by the government, you have no recourse. This is why the government should thus be as small and weak as possible, just powerful enough to prevent other organizations from achieving state-like powers.

#2. The article is pretty bad, but I do agree with the basic idea that a UBI won't work very well. I think some kind of wage supplement, like an EITC on steroids would be a better idea.

It's noteworthy that almost every proposal in favor of UBI, doesn't actually suggest a UBI. Few of them are actually Universal.

Yes. Mine is means tested.

It seem like making it universal would be simpler. There wouldn't be a high effective tax rate at the cutoff boundary. It wouldn't look as much like welfare because everyone would get it. There's no tax/income cheating to qualify when you shouldn't. There's not a never ending tug of war over who qualifies for benefits. Etc.

Social security doesn't means test. That looks like the successful model to follow. Means testing will always imply it's just a form of welfare.

Social Security has lots of means tests on net beneffits.

While earning more always increases benefit, the gain has sharply declining brnefit.

The untaxed benefit is capped at $25,000, intentionally not inflation adjusted, and the tax rate increases on SS benefits rather sharply. The closely related Medicare has higher premiums, as well as taxes, the higher your income. Warren Buffett is not complaining about paying probably in the millions each year for Medicare, which he might not use because doing so would lose a tax dodge. Can't use Medicare Part A and have an tax exempt MSA.

The ideal means testing eliminates a person making a decision because that often leads to discrimination. For some of a preferred class, the decide fixes the application so its approved, otherwise rejects it for even minor problems. This is what's been happening with the public service student loan forgiveness program.

#6...People spend just enough to get the job done. There is no a priori price nor is there any correlation that could be easily identified as bribery, which also limits the funding. It can't look like a bribe from a cartel king in prison trying to buy his freedom. The amounts are limited by perceptions and previous amounts.

Is there a single example that UBI supporters can point to of a population that largely doesn't work and is reliant on handouts, but also is happy and fulfilled?

Places where everyone is on welfare seem to be full of misery and substance abuse.

Does Sumter County count?

Or more generally, society does seem to contain roles where belonging is not preconditioned on gainful employment. Kids on summer vacation seem to do OK, and most of them aren't begging for September to roll around. Retirees aren't universally happy, but the unhappy old would not necessarily be made happier by labor.

I've collected evidence that the unhappy old would be made happier by labor, as long as the labor is not too physically taxing.

Kids on summer vacation have the rest of their lives to look forward to - they know they're kids, and play is part of their self-education and always has been.

It's a basic sci-fi theme -- planets where everything is provided by "The Wise Ones" or some all-powerful computer and the people are comfortable but stagnating

Self-reported happiness tends to--very, very roughly--take a U shaped pattern: starting from a relatively high level of happiness at 18, decreasing through the working years, and going back up as the worker reaches retirement. That's despite having less money (at both ends) and worse health (at the older end). Both young people and old people largely don't work and rely on handouts.

That said, you're also putting up a high bar. Is there a single example that [anyone] can point to of a population that largely [has attributes X and Y], but also is happy and fulfilled?

Credible AB tests are needed to start getting a realistic view of how a UBI would affect happiness levels.

If the bar for "happy and fulfilled" is, academic and/or activist sociologists have insufficient examples to write a serious treatise on the society's unhappy elements, is there a single example of a society that is largely happy and fulfilled?

As Finland's suicide statistics tell us, you can have a society that mostly works for most of its members, and that doesn't preclude some people, enough to talk about both as individual tragedies and gross statistics, having real mental health challenges.

#3 was nicely written but kind of obvious, no? Ask about anything in a search box and much of the stuff that comes up is YT vids.

It's true and obvious and more-or-less completely ignored in academia and mainstream economic or social analysis. In that fantasy-world, the popular consensus is that youtube is making people dumber.

I suppose it makes sense that academia and traditional media would insist that all true knowledge springs from them, not some guy on a homemade video

Do you have any citations where academics say that knowledge "can't come from some guy on a homemade video". Don't cherry pick now.

I often find Dr. Cowen's reference to mood affiliation misplaced, but Known Fact might have a case of it.

I'm not aware of any traditional media source that says, just go ahead and turn us off, drop your subscription, cut your cable, there's plenty of great stuff on You Tube and you'll be just fine. I suspect there are not many universities or school systems that would say likewise.

I like my local classical station but they would never dare point out that there's more music on YT than they could ever play in a lifetime, with no pledge drive ever needed.

I mean, I guess you want your dentist or auto mechanic to have done more than watch a few YT vids, but there also might be some stigma attached to inexpensive non-credentialed learning or knowledge from non-traditional sources. Say, home schooling.

From "insist" to "suspect"?

#4 If I paid for the window seat, I own the window. I bought it so that I can look out. In return, I will put up with being stuck on the inside, and I promise not to ask to be let out too often. MIddles gets the armrests, aisle gets a little extra footroom.

Contained in your list is another advantage of the window seat: no one will climb over me when they go to the restroom. I can sit there and know that I won't be hassled.

When I'm flying I spend as much time as i can sleeping. As a result I might miss the free beverages and snacks, but now I bring an empty plastic bottle that I fill with water after I get through security, plus a bag of nuts or cookies or whatever.

Is there any real difference between an audio comic book and an audio book?

+1, excellent question.

Or a 1940s' radio serial

Maybe just the subject matter? If it's about superheroes it's an audio comic book?

#6: A surprising blind spot that Scott Alexander has; he writes "First, we should expect ordinary people to donate more to politics. "

He tries to call it a coordination problem but this is Econ 101: the free rider problem. It's in a sense surprising that people even bother to vote as often as they do. And he's surprised that they don't donate?

Yep, that doesn't sound like his usual hyperrational self.

#2 is an embarrassment on many levels; and there is this typical contempt towards working class Americans being professed in a "socialist" journal. And a horrendous writing, to boot ("Yang yugend," etc.)

"At least 30 killed after a US-backed drone strike accidentally targeted farmers in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, officials say"

Insert Iran or Russia for "US" and MSM would have had a meltdown and the word accidental would not exist of course.

6. Political spending is more about diminishing returns. The best returns are from tv advertising, but for months before an election the airwaves are saturated with ads that most of us try to ignore. If one party magically solved the collective action problem and spent twice as much, it would barely move the needle.

Note that the comparison in the article of politics with almonds is misleading. Around 65% of US almond production (essentially all of which is in a small region of California, btw) is exported.

I've noticed that the strongest opposition and hate towards UBI comes not from the right, but from the Jacobin and DSA crowd of socialists. They're especially hostile because they were sort of blindsided by UBI becoming more publicized over the past few years. Ever since the Occupy movement and popularity of Bernie Sanders, the millenial socialists have felt that this is their moment and that they'd be able to capitalize on posing as the only possible economic alternative. Then all of a sudden UBI comes out of nowhere and people see that there are alternatives besides braindead socialism, and all these socialists have to actually defend inane ideas like "Full Employment" "Job Guarantees".

These socialists hate UBI because they want to centralize economic power and production in the state, and imagine themselves in privileged positions within this state-economy nexus, distributing economic largess and spoils in a way that maintains their status and accords with their politics.

UBI disintermediates politics and public sector rent seeking and maintains private markets for the production and provisioning of goods and services. This is anathema to the socialists.

Milton Friedman at one point advocated a negative income tax (not because he wanted to re-distribute income, but as a replacement for the hodge-podge of social welfare programs). It's the libertarian-ish approach to income redistribution: don't do it, but if you're going to do it then do it with the least amount of government telling people what to do.

So yeah, not surprising that some socialists have an antipathy for the idea.

#3: Also a fire accelerant: a youtuber in China makes videos showing herself cooking in an office, using office equipment. At one point she made popcorn in a soft drink can, over an alcohol burner. Two girls, 12 and 14 years old, tried to emulate that but caused an explosion that killed one and burned the other.

With youtube and 12-year olds, anything can happen but I still can't make sense of several elements here.

A soft drink can seems uselessly small for making popcorn in. You could put in what, maybe a dozen kernels, because when they pop they'll quickly fill the can.

I guess offices in China have alcohol burners?

According to this article, the two girls trying to emulate the video put alcohol INSIDE their cans as they were heating them up. Or maybe put alcohol inside and then ignited it?

Still, it sounds like that's not what caused the explosion or at least not the big one. They were doing this in a room with a large container of alcohol nearby.

I wonder what the heck the girls were thinking, but the answer might be that they were 12 and 14 and didn't know what the heck they were doing.

As weird and useless as the stunt of popping popcorn in a soft drink can is, it's not clear to me that the youtuber did anything reckless or wrong. What the two girls did was insanely dumb, and was not what the youtuber was demonstrating, but well 12 years old. Although I'd expect even 12-year olds to have better sense than that.

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