Tuesday assorted links


4. Somewhat interesting, but of course there are both more prices and more sellers than ever before. It's hard to say consumer attention is misplaced from this game.

Grocery stores carry 40,000 more items than they did in the 1990s

5. Interesting, but I don't totally buy the "total student body" adjustment. You go to Berkeley because very specifically the Computer Science department has great opportunities. Maybe if you wanted to be an energy field entrepreneur you'd go to The University of Texas at El Paso.

+1, informative

2. With Trump withdrawing America from the global economy, the urgency for China to build bridges (literally and figuratively) with other countries has subsided. The negative consequences of Trump will be felt in America for decades.

Hey, we "don't like Trump," isn't that enough for you!!!!

This and more in my new book: “How to Alienate People Who Agree with My Politics!”

Subtitled: “Re-Elect Trump 2020”

Anybody "alienated" is probably having a hard time digesting their own inaction. Suck it.

Russians have fun exploring the hastily abandoned American military base in Syria.

We should take whatever position is the opposite of Trump. Just like Trump does with Obama.

OMG, could anybody be that dumb? You just watched a video of an emergency cut-and-run by US forces, and your response is "it's all red team, blue team, same, same."

It really is mind-boggling, but some people are so dedicated to their "detachment" that they think any degradation of US government under Trump just proves "both sides do it" and that we should therefore expect all the same from any future Democratic administration.

That we should have no higher, abstract, standards.

Tyler Cowen literally wrote the book on Complacency, but I don't think he's that far gone.

You’re in hysterics as usual.

The best part of the Trump era is that the mask has slipped. You’re probably not smart enough to know what I mean.

Warren, the nominee, supports packing the court and the senate. Norms are gone.

Oh, I know what you mean, and that is basically as dumb.

There are some libertarians who take any boneheaded or illegal move by Trump as confirmation that "both sides do it" and "government is the problem."

The thing that makes that super dumb is that even (perhaps especially) if you want smaller government, you absolutely must have a core that respects the legislative process and rule of law.

It is inconceivable that libertarians, of all people, would go radio-silent as authoritarians supplant the Constitution, but here we are. They have, and they've not only left it for other people to fix. They complain when anyone tries. When the Democrats argue for the Constitution that because "partisan" because a party is saying it.

Libertarians are worse than free riders. They're drunk in the back seat and don't care where the car is going.

What libertarians are you talking about?

That's me, reading the room.

"Norms are gone."

That is nothing more than "burn it all down" recycled for 2020.

Decades of higher GDP growth, expanding employment, lower taxes, middle-class earnings, ending endless wars, rational judicial appointments, etc. would be preferable to [only] the next five-plus years . . .

Markets are flat, the deficit is over $1 trillion due to the tax cut to billionaires, Kurdish children are being slaughtered in their cribs, tariffs are costing consumers an average of $5,000 a year...

You do realize Warren will now pack the supreme court. You won a battle and lost the war.

It took five minutes to stop laughing.

Markets are what? 40% higher than November 2016, but trading in a range (no new high) since September 2018. Housing (most Americans' largest investment) still is rising at a rate (average 3% since 2017, my market 4.7% since 2018) comparable to every post-WWII expansion, and represents about 1% of the 2.4% current CPI increase.

The $1 trillion deficit is due to spending expanding faster than record high income tax receipts.

What does Turkey's civil war have to do with the USA?

Tariffs are costing consumers $5,000 a year. Not my experience. Where did you get that?

We never will accept Warren as president.

Warren and you want to punish not govern 63 million Americans.

You were 99% cock-sure corrupt, incompetent Hillary would be POTUS. Good luck with Sister Fauxcahantas.

"We never will accept Warren as president."

That's a disgraceful statement. Fortunately, you don't speak for anybody but yourself, however inflated your self-image. What could make you think you are the only person with a worthwhile view about being an American?

The Constitution does not authorize an elective dictatorship.

Plus, on what planet have you been hiding since late Election Day night 2016?

Oh, I see! it's different when the "new nobility" refuses to accept President Trump.

I accepted Trump as President because he was a lawfully elected, even though he's an amoral imbecile. I will do so if he's elected again, because I'm a proud citizen of this country who, until proven otherwise, believes we will continue to muddle on making this country better as best we can. I use my own name precisely because I stand by what I say wherever I voice my opinion, and constantly refer to what I've said in the past because I'm proud to do so even though I sometimes cringe. The most hilarious aspect of Trump's presidency is that he advocates the FED lowering rates and borrowing by means of a temporary deficit, which I've argued for for 11 years on this blog, while the GOP supporters used to find such views crazy. When Trump puts forward the number one policy on his 100 day pledge to govern during the last election, which was term limits for congress, I might begin to accept he's not full of BS.

The tax cuts went to all taxpayers so that was your first lie. The revenues increased thanks to the tax cuts which spurred growth; your second lie. The deficit increases ONLY because spending increases. Congress and in particular the House (which is controlled by the Democrats) determine the budget. There is no evidence that tariffs are costing American consumers one penny BUT even if that were to happen the benefit of bringing those jobs home would outweigh those costs.

This comment defines, "When all you have is a hammer...."

The threat of losing of American markets should actually fuel BRI.

4. Can you say credit. Ever shopped for a new car? The salesman will avoid discussion of the price of the car. Internet sites like True Car exploit stupidity. The monthly payment is what the transaction is all about. Of course, I am excluding the readers of this blog.

Maybe, if you're a ******* idiot.

There is no contradiction, here. Auto buyers do tend to shop on a monthly payment. Many people do not pay attention to the shelf price (never mind the unit price.) And many, many people are ******* idiots.

When you're right you're right.

Same thing with housing: monthly payment (mortgage loan, insurance, taxes) affordability is the main determinant.

I usually pay cash for new cars. Are zero-interest loans still available?

My experience with millennials is they do not shop for price. I do.

We discuss San Francisco treats while Kurdish babies are raped in their cribs.

And ISIS fighters escape en masse to start a new campaign of terror, probably in Germany.

#4 There has been a bit of coverage of people who buy up things that are mispriced in physical stores and resell them online. At this point I just assume that the spread on consumer goods is tiny, because if it wasn't someone would be arbitraging the hell out of it. So why bother remembering it? It's not so much the "extended mind" thing that *I* can look up the correct price when I need it, it's the knowledge that someone else will have looked up the correct price and exploited it until the difference went away.

1. I've read about that before. Levin's is a bit of a fringe view, but I'd be totally down with doing a replication of the original Viking Lander experiment to see what comes up.

3. I remember the protests about gay marriage in France. It's interesting where social conservative fault lines are in different countries (and also a reminder that France's most cosmopolitan cities - such as Paris - are not synonymous with France as a whole).

2. BRI is essentially foreign aid as China is losing money on a lot of the projects, often offering concessional interest rates far below what the recipients could get on the international bond markets. Look at how much populist backlash has been generated by even the small amounts of foreign aid our government gives, and how much foreign aid has been reduced over the last few decades as a result. I bet there are similar domestic pressures in China which explain the scaling back of BRI. China’s state-led investments resulted in it squandering its formerly massive current account surplus, instead of having private venture capitalists invest it in actually profitable enterprises. And yet some people think the US should copy Chinese “industrial policy.”

3. The fact that France is going immediately from IVF is banned to it being paid for from public funds seems to be the root of this cultural conflict. A neutral position where such procedures are allowed but the person getting it pays for it would allow both sides to be mollified as people are allowed to do what they want but aren’t forced to subsidize other people doing something they find morally abhorrent.

3.) Europe in general is far more socially conservative than observers in the US realize (or want to admit).

Some examples:

- Abortion is nearly completely banned in Ireland and Poland, and many other countries in the EU only allow it within the first trimester.

- Gay marriage is outright banned in a handful of countries in Europe, and many of the countries where it is law lagged behind the US in legalizing.

- Most European countries have far more school choice than the US, some with vouchers (Sweden), and a higher rate of students attend private school in Europe than in the US.

- Many European nations have established religions and state churches.

"Many European nations have established religions and state churches."

But religious service attendance and religiosity generally is lower than in the U.S. The U.S. has more liberal abortion and gay marriage laws because these laws were 'passed' by the Supreme Court and not by the legislature. As for school choice, I believe the U.S. is far more tolerant of home-schooling than EU countries. It's quite a mixed bag.

4. Ask someone in retail if shoppers are price conscious. Shoppers select what they want in a retail store and then search online for the lowest price. That way online sellers get the benefit of a retail store without having to pay the rent or staff for it.

Are we truly more inattentive to prices though?

After all we have several other explanatory channels:
1. It has been forever, but I believe the show tends to offer more durable goods than vacations and such. Things like washing machines, freezers, and the like have all been things that people shop for less and less often as their useful lifespans have increased. Similar "a new car" now easily lasts double the mileage of the earlier models in the show. If you are exposed to the price half as often, is it really less salient than if you see it every couple of years?
2. The used market for everything has improved. Computers, phones, cars, clothes ... if you want to buy it second hand there is at least a good website for that. I certainly could not tell you what a new model car costs; I have been buying pre-owned and been quite happy with the information and warranties I can purchase compared to the cost of going new. Is part of the effect the fact that prices are less anchored to "new" rather than "replacement". After all, even if only 1 in 10 new customers is willing to buy used, that still means that a large number of price interactions will lost to friends who now discuss (however vaguely) the used price instead of the new price.
3. Fewer of us work in areas that make, sell, repair, or otherwise interact with these prizes. A welder on the assembly line might know both what the car rolling off costs, but also might have some knowledge of prices from the guys at the union hall who worked on freezers. Similarly, retail used employ more people flogging more goods, but even if I go to Best Buy today, there just are not anywhere near the number of people personally selling me things. Again, if fewer people have an uncle who sells vacuum cleaners we have less exposure to prices.

3. We have fewer comparable goods today. Back in the day you could option your car for a few things: power locks & windows, a bigger engine, better sound system, sun roof ... and maybe a half dozen other things. Now? You can have the car built to spec and everything has the option for everything. You want a phone? Well good luck finding a price for a "phone"; the price range is only two orders of magnitude wide as you consider a wide range of capabilities.

4. Markets have segmented heavily. Suppose you are upper income renting in a major metropolitan area. Who is going to send you price information about a washer and dryer? Only an idiot. You have no use for the goods and if you are staying in the city at high income, you likely have no current intention of getting out. Conversely, if you are poor and rural, who is going to give you price information about a piano or ski vacation? With the widening of range in the market and better advertising targeting we should expect folks from different strata to have different knowledge of prices.

Are we more inattentive on price? Maybe. But the amount of price data out there is orders of magnitude greater today than back when the gameshow started, the price data is far more Balkanized, and we just don't see or use price data anywhere near as often these days.

5. The cost of housing is astronomical, the cost of medical care is inconceivable. The cost of stuff, from a hammer to a hat to an avocado, just doesn't matter enough to notice. Otherwise, point #3 is spot on.

the second #3! Hee hee!

The Fermi Panic could still well befall us before any conclusive announcement of paleo-biology reveals that Mars could once have supported microorganisms:


Tentatively, I agree with the newly minted Nobel Physics laureate who severely pooh-poohs the idea of human colonization of ANY exoplanet: Elon Musk's Flash Gordon-style steampunk rocket is not even fit for exploring our heliosphere in timely fashion. (--which means I cannot seriously accept the premises of Hawkwind's "Uncle Sam's on Mars", except the strictly and specific satiric premises.)

Considerate Hawkwind song link as an afterthought:


1: Great example of TNP's First Rule. No matter how laughingly false something is, MR will post it.

It's interesting that I now basically automatically discount anything from SciAm,

The article is obviously sloppy as the writer clearly allowed what they want to be to over ride a dispassionate analysis of the evidence. Thank god that would never happen in this comments section.

3. lies in eye of beholder - seen from France (and Europe in general) the US is "pretty conservative", even abnormally so (e.g. attitudes to nudity, pre-marital sex, religion, etc)

#4: The point of the game is to bid CLOSE to the price but not OVER the price. If your guess is above the price, you automatically lose. So it may be that people are intentionally underestimating to ensure they aren't automatically disqualified.

If the first person bids $500, and you believe the price to be between $501 and $550, your optimal bid is $501. That way you win at any price >=$501. If you bid $550 and the actual price is $549, you lose even though you are closer to the actual price because you went over. And if you think everyone ahead of you overbid, your optimal bid is "$1, Bob!"

I especially liked the jump from "maybe some earth-based microbes ejected" to "worm-like things!!!!"

I can believe Earth microbes in small amounts as a hypothesis.

Don't give me claims of macroorganisms without a lot better data, pal.

1. The CO2 in Mar's atmosphere would not become carbon monoxide over thousands of years. Trace amounts of water vapor result in CO converting back into CO2. This incorrect claim in really sloppy. As for life removing all the methane from the atmosphere in a matter of years, if we could work out how to do that it would be great for reducing global warming here.

"And if you think everyone ahead of you overbid, your optimal bid is "$1, Bob!""

And due to inflation, that fact alone would account for a growing difference in the bids versus the actual price.

4. I suspect the #1 reason people are undershooting the Price is Right nowadays is because they still use MSRP for the prices, and people almost never pay MSRP thanks to places like Walmart, Target, or Amazon, who want to show a discount. Something like Rice-a-Roni might "cost" $1.50, but 90% of the time people are getting 10 for $10 or something like that.

"The conservatism of the French": well, men still seem to like women in France, so there's that, I guess.

As far as reproductive technology goes, whether used to bypass nature or to undermine the role of non-random mating, I think it only confuses the issue to suggest that there is a "conservative" position in all this.

Much like Elizabeth Warren's assertion - she did not merely assent to the notion - that it's "important" that the imprisoned population be given free transgender surgery: surely this is the point at which liberals go on without conservatives - no looking back now! - and maybe shed of that baggage they can regain the ability to discuss who must pay for whose liberty, and possibly even run some numbers on how overarching the liberal state must get to compel such payments, and still deserve the name.

#1: Levin cites the environmental data that we've gathered about Mars, but fundamentally I'm not seeing anything new here, that we didn't learn 40 years ago. Back then _New Yorker_ magazine first grabbed my attention with a great pair of articles by Henry S. F. Cooper reporting in depth on the three life-detection experiments, their lead investigators (including Levin), with Carl Sagan bouncing gleefully between the experiments looking at their design and results.

Those of us who are old enough remember Levin's initial tantalizing results being headline news. And then the deflation when the other experiments failed to show signs of life. Thus Levin's claim

"What is the evidence against the possibility of life on Mars? The astonishing fact is that there is none. "

does not hold; due to the lack of evidence from the other experiments within days or weeks just about everyone (including IIRC Sagan, but not Levin) concluded that we have not found signs of life on Mars.

That doesn't mean we should stop the search, but I leave it to the mission planners to decide what the most valuable experiments or information-gathering should be conducted. Doing another LR experiment might be fairly far down the list.

Cooper's articles were in the Feb. 5 and 12, 1979 issues; the articles' conclusion at this link summarizes them nicely. It's notoriously difficult to prove a negative, but the experiments did not show good evidence for life on Mars.

#4: With greater national reach by chains especially online and mail order, more information available via the web, and less geographic isolation of markets, I wonder if price variation is smaller than it was a few decades ago.

And if there's less price variation, then there's less reason to be informed about prices. You just go out and buy something knowing that the price will be pretty close to the market price.

E.g. those studies showing that most attempts to save on gasoline costs are not worthwhile because you save a few pennies on the price but pay for it by wasting gas driving there and back.

Being super price-conscious may have less value now than it used to.

#4. Is it surprising higher prices have higher deviations?

#3...I support Gay Marriage, but when I read" Superintelligence" by Nick Bostrom a while back, I realized that I'm glad I won't be around much longer.

3. France's birth rate has been below replacement for 45 years and they are only subsidizing IVF for some women now??? It would be around 20 years since the Prime Minister of Australia stood tall for the right of lesbians to have publicly funded IVF treatments. He was leader of the Crusty Old People party. Old people want their pensions paid, you know.

Wrong, crikey.

This year it is estimated France will have about 784,000 births and about 615,000 deaths. They are beating the replacement rate and have been doing so for some time. Check data before coming on here to make a fool of yourself.

I got a fertility rate falling to 2.09 in 1975 and less than that until 2016. And I got 1.87 for 2018. The replacement rate is typically considered to be 2.1. Fertility rate is not the same as births over deaths.

PS: I hope you respond this way to everyone who makes statements that may not be factually true.

"France is pretty conservative." Perhaps that's associated with France being a proper country? For the time being, at least.

It's gone downhill ever since they allowed Huguenots to have equal rights.

Comments for this post are closed