Saturday assorted links

1. Pain in Japanese cinema.

2. Converting dog years into human years kind of like a price index problem Eric Weinstein would say use gauge theory.  Yet “The new formula says a canine’s human age = 16 ln(dog age) + 31.”

3. Is the Fed permanently stepping up its involvement in money markets?

4. Alexey Guzey on sleep fallacies.

5. Is a living whale worth $2 million in fighting climate change?

6. The worst economic policies of any candidate in my lifetime: “Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has unveiled sweeping tax proposals that would push federal tax rates on some billionaires and multimillionaires above 100%.” (WSJ)


3. As long as rising asset prices is the path to prosperity the Fed will have an interventionist role in maintaining both rising prices and avoiding a crisis. Does George Selgin support a different path to prosperity, one not dependent on rising asset prices, or is he just lame?

3 - The article could be subtitled, "Desperately Trying Not To Be Blind-Sided Again."

Fed playing a game of whack-a-mole.

Don't worry Dick, these are the smartest people on the planet, even smarter than all the eggheads in all the schools of economics in all the universities. It's in the hands of top people, trust me, top people.

Raiders of the Lost Ark "We have top people ..."

I put my trust in God Almighty - my refuge and my strength. And, I'm buying more gold.

I come here to read posts and comments by people who have no idea about the workings of the real World.

Seen elsewhere: "Historians can't figure out how Americans built the Hoover Dam." That seems highly appropriate for econ academics.

The dilemma: is the solution the Fed hire a thousand more econ PhD's or fire them all and run monkey policy on "dead reckoning?"

4. is a demolishing. Even for pop science, the Matthew Walker book appears to be intentionally misleading.

Glad to see this as I was trying looking for critical reviews of this book recently. Its still on my to-read list but I heard the author's lengthy series of podcasts with Peter Attia and his claims struck me as very strong, and also he just came across as too smooth and certain for an academic.

Peter Attia is a lover of pseudoscience.

5. For those not inclined to read the link, whales absorb an enormous amount of carbon every day in their diet: "Chami found out that whales may be able to store nine tons of carbon in their body by eating phytoplankton, their main food source. A single whale, he learned, could capture the same amount of carbon dioxide as 30,000 trees." The significance of the article (besides whales and carbon) is the role of economists in quantifying the value of a whale in doing something that whales do naturally, eat plankton. I was impressed when reading the article this morning before going to the gym to burn some off some of the plankton I consume. On this website we read about many studies done by economists that some might believe are useless. This was a whale of a study. Do white whales consume more carbon?


Do you type these pearls at will or in advance and them saved in a Word doc?

The answer, my friend, I blowing in the wind.

They haven't done the trick of assuming a massive carbon price to get an inflated figure, but they apparently have done things like include the value of ecotourism, so it would be necessary to taker a closer look at the figures to see what's what.

While wales result in higher CO2 emissions due to all the sunscreen they use, but they but they reflect more radiation into space due to their high albedo, so it may be a wash.

I don't get it. Dont the plankton tr themselves "capture" the carbon by existing? I thought the problem was supposed to be co2.

There's apparently a couple of effects. Whales poop on the surface but can dive to great depths to feed. The surface pooping provides fertilizer for plankton so there is more of it than there would be without the whale. Carbon is also sequestered for potentially a century or more when a whale dies and sinks to the seafloor.

#2 Either the calculator is wrong, or their not showing what the claim to be. When we think of equating dog years to human years, we visualize people we know across a spectrum. The tail end, old age, of the spectrum generally includes many people up to their mi-90s. We are aware of people around 100 years old. When I input an age of 30 into the calculator it returns a human age of 85. No dog has lived to 30. I’m going to use the old dog years calculation.

Consider a dog of age 1 year. It's equivalent to a human of age 31, says the formula. I've not owned a dog since boyhood - to people who have done better, does that answer seem reasonable to you?

If the dog is 2.72 years old it's like a 47 year old human. Really? In any way that matters to its owner?

It's complete bollocks.

A 105.5 year old dog is the same as a 105.5 year old human. After that, dogs age less rapidly than humans.

Yeah, it's ridiculous. Dogs generally fully mature at age 2. Then depending on the breed, they live another 6-15 years.

There's a huge spread in life expectancy between some dog breeds, meaning there is not a single formula that works for all of them. A 7 year old Border Collie is in the prime of life, while a 7 year old Great Dane is a geriatric dog in the last year or two of life.

I have had dogs my whole life. We have two border collies right now. Border Collies live on average about 12 years. Ours start showing their age (white muzzle, health problems, etc) around 8. If one lives to be 15, it's way above the curve. Occasionally you hear about one that lived to 17.


Age 1 = 15 or so.
Age 2 - 25 in human years.
Age 8 - Around 50. Late middle age.
Age 12 - median lifespan, so maybe 75 or so. Dogs don't get the health care we get.

Age 15 - roughly 85-90. Rare, but not crazy rare. Dogs that make it this far are often in poor health.

So, for a medium sized dog older than two, the formula would be 25 +((age-2) * 5). That's a slight enhancement on the old 'Dog age * 7' formula, which doesn't account for the nonlinear aging in the first two years.

How does that fit with the above?
Age 2 = 25 human years
Age 8 = 55 human years
Age 12= 71 human years
Age 15 = 90 human years
Age 17 = 100 human years

Pretty close! But this won't track for very large breeds like Great Danes. Dog lifespan tends to correlate with size, with the tiny dogs living longest. A Great Dane is old by age 7, and only live 8-10 years on average. The difference between breeds makes any single formula wrong

Yes, those numbers make much more sense than that dumb formula and even worse implementation on the webpage.

I can't do logarithms in my head but I certainly can calculate the log of 1: so a 1-year old dog is equivalent to a 31-year old human?

The instructions on the webpage say to only input numbers that are 1 or more, but you can input numbers less than 1. For low enough numbers, the human age becomes negative. That might be an artifact of applying the formula to edge cases but allegedly their research included dogs only 4 weeks old.

I expect better quality work from Science (meaning the magazine, but yes the discipline too).

6. Wow, what a weirdly constructed argument.

"Consider a billionaire with a $1,000 investment who earns a 6% return, or $60, received as a capital gain, dividend or interest. If all of Ms. Warren’s taxes are implemented, he could owe 58.2% of that, or $35 in federal tax. Plus, his entire investment would incur a 6% wealth tax, i.e., at least $60. The result: taxes as high as $95 on income of $60 for a combined tax rate of 158%."

That's all about the last, marginal thousand dollars owned by a billionaire, the last marginal $60 earned, and the last marginal taxes on it?

We are talking about billionaires, and a tax that only applies to wealth above a billionaire, and some .. handmaiden to billionaires comes in with this? The tax on $60.

Handmaidens, and some billionaires, need to man up.

I literally cannot tell if you are actually this stupid or this entire persona is a performance art piece investigating how people react to overt idiocy and innumeracy on academic blogs.

The $1,000 is arbitrary and used to make it easier for readers like you, who presumably never took more math than trigonometry back in the 1960s.

It’s arbitrary...

Please tell me this is trolling. Please.

It's a famous cheat to talk about the tax rate on the last marginal dollar, rather than the effective tax rate for the individual.

And note that we are talking about 500 individuals. In total.

You can’t be this innumerate, nor this stupid.

Did no one teach boomers Economics and linear algebra? You’re not this dumb; it’s almost inconceivable. You cannot be this stupid.

You’re a troll account. You want us to think all liberal anti-Trumpists are literal retards unable to do simple math.

I disagree with Trump and think you should stop your trolling campaign.

There are other analyses available. This one uses time series analysis to look at income and accumulated wealth:

"As for the 400 people who made it to Forbes magazine’s list of the country’s wealthiest people, each would have an average worth of $3.1 billion, down from the current $7.2 billion."

I guess it comes empathy. Do we feel we couldn't be happy with $3 billion, and so we don't want to inflict that cruelty on these 400 people?

Or maybe we should set our sights wider, and make America a happy place for someone with $50k/yr?

So it's just peachy to expropriate more than half of the average billionaire's wealth because...empathy. Talk about a performative exercise.

You misunderstood me. It's a weird kind of empathy that makes us *not*, even though we know intellectually that this is massively more wealth than any factionaly well-adjusted human needs for happiness.

And you turned around and suggested that we should expropriate wealth from billionaires to help people making $50K/year happier. Why should we want to do that? You didn't really mention anything else other than empathy. We can play this stupid game and look it from the perspective of someone even poorer and say that the guy earning $50K/year should also be paying more in taxes to provide bread and circuses to them.

Well, if you have more empathy for the $7B man than for the $50k per year family planning for their kids' college. Today ..

you might have a good future as a handmaiden.

I have more empathy for the person being stolen from than I do for the $50k guy who wants to steal stuff, yeah, I do. Also they'll both be much worse off in the long run, so even if I just wanted to maximize the benefit to the $50k guys, I wouldn't do this.

+1. The wealth of a billionaire or a person earning $50K/year is not a common asset that may be redistributed on the basis of which person in society is deemed to be more deserving of our empathy. That's just plain theft.

To be clear I feel it too, emotionally. "Poor guy doesn't have 7 billion anymore!"

Some definition of "poor," eh?

Stealing is wrong. Also, crushing productivity and investment and imprisoning people in their native country like the soviet union is wrong.

Taxation is older than the bible, and if you recall specifically, Jesus signed off.

??? WTF?

You're telling me you're a Christian fundamentalist and Jesus said that tax rates should be over 100%??? That's your pitch?

So how much less economic activity would there be if you removed 400 X $4.1billion dollars from the economy? Looking at one company I deal with, Emerson Electric, $8.7 billion in equity generating $2.5 billion in sales. 76000 employees.

188 of these companies would be liquidated, causing 14 million people to lose their jobs.

Why do you hate working people so much?

The plan very explicitly is to spend it on working people.

M4A, college plans, etc.

Well, they wouldn't be "working" people anymore, would they?

Also those are plans that are for everyone, not just working people. Also they are incredibly wasteful and would make everyone poorer.

Social engineer A knows better and demands that B(illionaire) give his money to C(ivil parasite...err...servant) who will distribute the remainder to D.

Buljanoff : How are things in Washington?

Ninotchka : Very Good. The last wealth confiscations were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better workers.

CERN has developed a monetary black hole and all the revenue from the wealth tax has already been earmarked to be thrown into it in an attempt to remove it from the economy.

The "black hole" is unproductive government Ponzi schemes.

Name them. In my country we have mastered the art of wasting money, but we have not yet learned the trick of removing money from the economy. As best we can tell it always ends up somewhere, even if that place is very stupid.

Of course you ignore how a wealth tax gets paid.

The billionaire sells stock they got/created/bought for maybe a $1 a share and then held for a decade or three while the shares they didn't own got inflated in price by workers using tax shelters called IRAs and 401Ks to get rich by creating ever increasing demand for scarce tradable shares, driving up prices.

If Gates, Buffett, etc are forced to sell shares to pay taxes based on inflated share prices, it will have to be workers buying these new shares entering the tradable market, or else!

Too many new shares offered for sale without an increased flow of cash from workers will result in massive wealth destruction.

If $1000 of Jeff's Amazon stock is offered for sale to workers currently buying a few shares a year at say a cash flow of $5000 with other workers selling shares they bought over years for $4000 to get $5000 to pay for retirement living costs, what happens?

Do the workers increase their savings from $5000 to $6000?

Or do the $6000 in shares fall in price to $5000, destroying almost a $1000 in wealth held by workers in their tax shelters?

A billionaire would be smart enough to buy puts, etc, to workers trying to get rich by leveraged speculation, so they would get $1000 in cash minus fees buying the puts, before the market clearing price is set. Once the price crashes, before that "wealth" is assessed for tax purposes, so the billionaire makes a profit on converting wealth into cash to pay taxes.

Meanwhile workers get screwed, though they are the workers getting paid 10-30% more than they can possibly consume, without paying Branson $500,000 for 5-10 minutes on a vomit comet ride to almost the Kármán line to see the sky go black.

The wealth tax will be paid by the wages of workers earning more than the spend to live. The workers think they are buying something of value greater than its price because GOP tax policies have inflated asset prices by goosing demand while restricting the supply of new assets. Asset prices must always go up, right?

Good Guy Bill Gates has stuffed $40B into a legit charitable foundation, off the books now for all these taxes.

Which is a good incentive.

Those 500 or so people cannot fund everything on the Warren/Sanders/anonymous progressive wish list. Equally importantly, they will not. The rest of us will in every way possible.

It's a completely different question what I myself would propose. But one clue is that I am an independent, and not a Democrat trying to win a nomination.

Maybe all my policies are more moderate and pragmatic than either party can accept right now.

Still, I fell I can point out that even in the extreme and unlikely case that the US Congress passes every Warren dream (1) tax isn't theft, that's boring and (2) having smaller billionaires isn't really such a great cruelty.

Everyone is still rich, just less so, and nobody got eaten.

1. Can't speak for Ozu's sources, but Kurosawa when not consulting Dostoevsky did adapt fiction from Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927), whose tales "In a Grove" and "Rashomon" were adapted for AK's film with the latter's name.

Akutagawa's two adapted tales themselves derive from the eleventh century CE source Konjaku monogatari, other elements of which find expression in two English language tales adapted here:

Author of the article here -- that's true. Kurosawa was much more prone to adaptation. Only a few Ozu films were adapted from books. I think that might partly be because Kurosawa was deriving a lot of his drama from the tapestry of stories throughout history, whereas Ozu was trying to make "pure" cinema, straight from experience .

Throws an interesting light on Grave of the Fireflies, on the one hand, but also The Thin Red Line on the other. Grave is Japanese, but an anime, not live action – the same story told in live action would be, perhaps, too brutal. Red Line is by an American, Terrence Malick, who is Buddhist. From a short blog post I wrote about the film:

You see, The Thin Red Line is a war picture, about a really bloody WWII battle at Guadalcanal. That’s an extraordinary opening for such a picture. Yeah, the croc, he’s ugly. But not rendered as such, not the violence. Just the cool slipping into the water, silently, with grace even.

That was certainly a bad response, and certainly it doesn't mean anything to us, unless we are one of the approximately 500 billionaires in the USA.

Oh, the handmaidens cry, the tax on their last marginal dollar income may be above 100%.

But note that they didn't compute actual effective tax rate on all earnings or wealth.

They made the standard cheater argument, that last-marginal is all.

Oh, I thought this was gone, but it was just detached and shifted. Sorry for the duplicate content.

There is a solution. Thank God.

At a specified adjusted gross income amount, all net taxable income is taxed at the highest, marginal rate. Same for estate/gift and wealth taxes.

Eat The Rich.

Does anyone with any economic sense believe that a marginal tax rate of 160% is okay? Your argument is "yeah, their marginal tax rate is 160%, but the effective tax rate is probably only like 95%"? That's your argument?

Okay you get to confiscate some billionaires' money, but who will want to start a business in the U.S. anymore? What would this do to Bay Area VC? Everything would have to be offshore, wouldn't it?

I sure as hell wouldn't become an independent plumber in the United States if I knew that as soon as I made one billion I'd be paying around a 100% marginal tax rate. Sure, having one billion dollars would be nice, but if you can't have two billion what's the point?

Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of economics knows that economic decisions are typically made on the margin. I think someone should start a blog devoted to that economic insight. I wonder what that blog would be named...

Reiterating Anon7, ALL decisions are made at the margin! Those who do otherwise eventually disappear.

There is discussion above using the concept of empathy. The arguments made sound more like envy to me.

At marginal tax rates of higher than 100% an insurance industry will spring up to compensate people for making lots of money. People will pay premiums to not make additional money, i.e. the Incentive to lift another finger is gone. Will look like dark ages, and I mean dark.

Maybe beyond a billion you should just start stuffing your charitable foundation, and start to decide what kind of good you want to do in the world.

As Bill Gates has shown, that does bring it's own rewards. It too is not really a hardship.

(And don't forget, your descendants can be paid to manage that foundation. With (required) payout below growth, it can last forever.)

#1: are Ozu and Kurosawa like that? A useful way to look at the films. Does Kurosawa have a Western perspective? Less persuasive.

I think it mis-states the essay to say that it claims that Kurosawa had "a Western perspective". It takes watching only one or two of Kurosawa's films, and one or two films by just about any other Japanese director (not including Godzilla films though) to quickly notice that Kurosawa's films have more of a Western perspective than most other Japanese films do.

But that's not the same thing as saying that Kurosawa had a Western perspective. What he had was more of a Western perspective, more than most other Japanese filmmakers did, considerably more in the case of Ozu.

As the article says, critiques of Kurosawa for being too Westernized have been around for decades.

The article's points about Ozu are intriguing. About the only objection that I can think of is that Ozu's outlook might stem not so much from Buddhism as from Japanese culture in general. Granted Japanese culture was in turn influenced by Buddhism.

Indeed the author says that is a normative view. I don't know if this is true, or that they simply represent different currents within Japanese culture itself, and to some extent probably all cultures, which have simply been labelled certain ways by the author.

FWIW, one of this films, Seven Samurai has been remade twice in America, as The Magnificent Seven, once in 1960 (with Yule Brenner, Steve McQueen and others) and again in 2016 (with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, etc.).

The whole concern about Fed repo operations is misguided. There’s nothing to see, other than the embarrassment of the Fed letting their eyes of the ball for a little bit before accommodating the markets. They intend to control interest rates, so they’ll act in the government debt market. There’s no meaningful credit risk being taken, so the talk about moral hazard is nonsense.

If someone is concerned about the money market and money market funds, he/she should go and study the 2016 regulations on th money market funds, not recent repo operations.

I agree. There is though a more general point being made, in that some people think by the Fed avoiding recessions, it is creating moral hazard risks. It is certainly true that periodic recessions do cause some businesses who have high leverage to go out of business, reducing profits for the investors in those businesses. So without periodic recessions once can imagine that more and more business will come to have higher leverage. I don't think this is necessarily bad though, debt is just another way of funding a business, I can't see a moral difference between debt and equity, either for the borrowers or the lenders. I think this anti-debt bias is possibly some historical bias thanks to injunctions against usury.

1. But Tyler you once chose Kurosawa over Ozu in an interview. This piece perhaps should help you realize that your obsession with action, aspiration, growth, etc. is an indulgence in suffering, a moralizing weakness, an evasion of finitude. A nobler, austerely beautiful approach would be to affirm a pacific socialism where the pain is spread equally, there are no wins or losses, and no one even tries much, and so they are thus liberated, becoming what they are: emptiness.

Alexey Guzey's review is truculent but good. Prof. Walker foolishly could not resist the temptation to become a best-selling author and took short-cuts and paid a severe price. Publishing some narrow academic pieces doesn't mean you can write a wide-ranging book with far-reaching recommendations.
I would also recommend this for the philosophically inclined:

#4 - there's a reason nerds are distrusted or even hated:

- "I’ve been experimenting with sleep for the last month and I converged on a formula of sleeping 4-5 hours per night and then doing as many 20-30 minute naps as I need during the day (1-2 usually)."

- "Here’s a detailed story (a) with many practical tips from a friend of mine who experimented with many different ways of sleep reduction, including hardcore polyphasic sleep, and settled on the same 6.3 hours of sleep per day schedule."

Not everyone is a loner or pampered baby which can have 1 or 2 naps per day. There are work colleagues, customers, people have kids, people have continuous responsibilities controlling machines from trains to chemical plants, people has to work continously in schools, hospitals or warehouses.

A lot of people is tired and just want to sleep a bit more : (i) a book comes out telling sleeping more is good, literally telling you customers what they want to hear (ii) stereotypical nerd with zero responsibilities approaches to the issue as hobby, zero empathy with other people.

I'd love to see this guy talking to an audience of sleep deprived parents or pregnant women about those 2 naps a day =)

I'm the author of the essay.

You ignored the first link in that section: - author of this post is married and works a normal 9-5 job

Great ad hominems tho!

I think it's my mistake ignoring details unmentioned on your text or the About section on that link.

In a more serious tone, how do you know that sleep regime yields the best of you instead of keeping you down? Any metric? + I see clearly when my exercise performance drops

Maybe the policy in no. 6 would make people realize that there are more important things than money and wealth in life.

Those of you arguing with anonymous have to remember something. He/she/ze is the same person that said earlier this week that people shouldn’t be worried about the oppression in Hong Kong or the Chinese re-education camps because the people on mainland China look happy. He/she/ze is a sick individual and really shouldn’t be engaged. It is misery he/she/ze wants to spread. There is no end to the number of eggs he/she/ze is willing to break to make omlettes.


I ask this sincerely. I'm not trolling or looking to start a quarrel. I don't understand how the marginal tax rate is above 100% because as I understand it the $1000 invested will be taxed as wealth regardless of whether it's invested or not. To attribute the $60 wealth tax on that $1000 to the investment returns of that $1000 - which gets us to the 100%+ marginal tax rate - then seems wrong. If the money is buried in the yard it's still wealth to be taxed, no? The $60 tax on it is a constant then no matter how it's deployed? Do I misunderstand this?

Yes, unless I am very mistaken about how it works, a billionaire will have to pay a total of 6% of their total wealth in tax no matter what until their wealth fell below one billion at which point the wealth tax will reduce.

If a billionaire's goal is to have as much wealth as possible then they should use their capital to earn as much as possible. The wealth tax should not change this.

(Yes, there may be weird things about the US tax system I am unaware of that might affect this. If there are, it might be a good idea to get rid of them.)

My question exactly, Honest Question. Shouldn't the base of this calculation be $1000 (investment) + $60 (capital gain) = $1060? And if the taxes amount to $95, then the effective tax rate on the marginal investment is about 8.96%. How on earth does it make sense to apply the entire $95 tax amount to the capital gain base of $60?
Put another way, let's look at the disincentive that this tax generates. If I am a billionaire and I earn $1000 extra, previously I'd have kept all $1000. Now I only get to keep $940. If I choose to invest my $1000, previously I'd have gotten to keep $1060 (investment + capital gain). Now I only get to keep $965. This is very much still a positive incentive. Not as strong as a $1060 incentive, granted, but definitely not "confiscatory" as argued above.
The WSJ article is clearly being dishonest. Surprised that an economist like Tyler considers this a legit criticism. I suspect mood affiliation!

Thanks for saving me the trouble of explaining this, Joker in the Bomb. It's incredibly dishonest to say the wealth tax applies to the capital gains only, rather than the total assets, just so you can get a scary >100% tax rate.

The *only* legit argument against the wealth tax I've heard is that assets would be devalued as billionaires rush to sell to pay for the tax, effectively destroying wealth. I'd like to learn at which tax rate does the destruction of the ultra rich's wealth via asset devaluation outpace the positive effects of wealth redistribution, keeping in mind that most ultra rich people's wealth just sits there doing nothing anyways.

Tyler, if you still consider yourself an honest intellectual economist running an insightful blog, would you mind pointing us to some research that investigates the negative effects of wealth destruction vs. the positive effects of wealth redistribution, rather than some obviously dishonest op-ed in a conservative newspaper?

If the Fed "limits the scope of cash it is lending out or increases the price," what effect is that going to have on the banks with the "too big to fail" mentality that has been perpetrated by the Fed lately? Is it too late for them to pull back without harm?

5. That's a whale of a tale. Would anyone like to buy a bridge?

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