Thursday assorted links

1. Is flying and tourism good for the environment? (NYT)

2. Eww…(is that the right spelling?)…”People Are Having Sex With 3D Avatars of Their Exes and Celebrities.”


4. More brands are becoming perceived as politically partisan (WSJ).

5. New papers on Smith and Hume, with themes of liberalism and esotericism.


#3 It is sad to see how America's elites keep slandering the Chinese people.

Complimenti bravo continua cosi!!ottimo lavoro Grazie!!

#1 Maybe not, but it is very good for the economy.

#2 Marginal Revolution turned into Buzzfeed so fast, I hardly noticed.

#3 I've commented on this before. Currency manipulation, 'dark' lending pools, significant Chinese household savings, and wealth emigration hard to quantify problems that aren't even a big secret about China's economy. Belt and Road will go nowhere, and their efforts to diversify away from lowest-cost manufacturing are failing. They have a huge problem.

#4 Everything is. Everything within politics. Nothing outside of it. These people have determined you will be made to care. Well if we aren't allowed to 'not care' I'm going to work overtime to ensure they can't 'not care' either. Act accordingly.

3. Not every elite is China-phobic: Of course, if China's version of state capitalism succeeds, most everything we have been taught is . . . . wrong. The irony of the China bogeyman is that America's business made the China miracle/menace. Hypocrisy is what we do best.

Some sanity checks here. China is a very poor country still. For comparison...

China GDP per capita PPP: $16,000
Taiwan GDP per capita PPP: $53,000
Mexico GDP per capita PPP: $20,600
US GDP per capita : $59,500

China's catchup growth *is* impressive in the sense of being unprecedented. And the Chinese economy's sheer scale being yoked to the political of the Communist Party is of course a concern (to normal souls).

But it's also catchup growth and China is still relatively low on GDP/capita.

More importantly "China’s rise fits every development model" (

It's not unexplained, contra what you would claim. Seems mostly explained by getting the basics right on human development and being plugged into world markets (on pretty generous, asymmetric terms). Probably *not* the role of the state.

On what is specific to China, not so impressive for their people relative to most of their East Asian comparables in the region; lower consumption share of GDP per level of GDP/capita, lower GDP/capita at peak worker (after "demographic divided"), lower GDP/hour worked at the same GDP/capita, higher corruption perceptions at same level GDP/capita, etc.

It's not even clear that China's development is impressive relative to what catch-up growth could be achieved by countries following a simple "Neoliberal" consensus model with the the same levels of HDI inputs (health, literacy, IQ, etc.)

PRC specific features seem to perhaps be the rather double edged sword of high level of control and stimulus to smoothing out recession which comes with a lot of unproductive state enterprise and debt. Which state enterprises don't even seem like they would make an authentic Communist idealogue particularly happy, since they tend to be party directed and suppress worker compensation, rather than being "social enterprises" run in any sort of worker's council / co-operative manner or motivated much by Woke value (although they might please the ranks of the dodgy "Party Men" that constitute the ranks of many a Communist movement).

Regarding the catchup growth.$state$time$value=2018;;&chart-type=bubbles

Impressive for sure, but built fundamentally on a foundation of sand and the greatest wealth transfer in history for the US middle class.

And if it fails most everything we have been taught is correct, yes?

#1 Well, it better than war.

1. Erm... the Serengeti was a cattle ranch before rinderpest, so it is a little tasteless to tell people it should never be one again. The image of African savanna as a natural untouched Eden is a lie.

By what standard does Cowen say Eww to ”People Are Having Sex With 3D Avatars of Their Exes and Celebrities” but not also to homosexuality/sodomy and transgenderism/genital mutilation? The latter two seem more harmful.

#2: Example n of polite opinion at least pretending to be freaked out by people doing with computer graphics what they have been doing with their imaginations and in literature literally forever. For some weird reason.

The self-abuse is of no interest, but the abuse of language in the headline catches at my OCD for some reason.

Ex sex is always great. Indulging in elaborate fantasies about her smacks of the loser.

If you found out your girlfriend had a collected of self-authored erotica on her hard drive featuring an ex-boyfriend of hers, dated from after she broke up with him, what would you think of that?

The issue would probably be if it intrudes on the present day relationship, not that people pine after people they have been in love with, and relive those experiences (which is fairly human and normal).

Although the judgment would probably depend on how classy it was ;)

Well, you would think that once she got into a relationship with YOU, she would discreetly dispose of her ex-boyfriend erotica, since she's presumably not interested in him anymore, right?
I can imagine someone keeping around some naked shots of their ex for a couple of years after a relationship, but if you're now married or something wouldn't you find it a bit wierd if your wife/husband still had naked shots of his ex in his porn folder on his computer?

Yes, but this is hardly news. People have been jerking off to dirty pictures of their ex or acquaintances or celebrities since forever. Despite the stupid click bait headline, nobody is “having sex with” 3D computer models. They’re just jerking off to dirty pictures, same as always. Nothing to see here.

Jerking off to dirty pictures of your ex, that were computer generated after you broke up, is a tad different than jerking off to the dirty pictures she gave you when you were dating, no? If you're generating new imagery AFTER the breakup, that sort of suggests that you're a wee bit obsessed.

Sure, I guess. I mean, back in 1970 you could make a collage out of Polaroids. The point is that this is not "news".

What would I think? "So she's into THAT, huh? We should try it sometime." Well, either that or I'd consider it her way of processing the breakup, depending on the nature of the story. Everyone handles emotionally traumatic experience differently.

Women have pasts. Only someone with the mentality of a child would expect otherwise. And occasionally that's going to include "The sex was good, but we were totally incompatible in other ways." If you're too insecure to deal with that, you're too insecure to be in an adult relationship.

Before you say it, yes, I have experience here. My wife had boyfriends before she met me, some of whom she's obviously still physically attracted to. Never caused me any grief. After all, I'm the one she chose. Hell, I've turned it into a point of commonality a few times--we both obviously have similar taste in women, which gives us something to talk about.

I guess it would depend on other factors. Like does she still speak to this person and have a friendly relationship. Versus, there's some wierd stalker shit going on.

Here's the thing though. When it's inverted, it's not entirely symmetric. Men don't have to worry about obsessive ex-girlfriends stalking them as much as women do. It happens, and it's a concern, but men are more physically capable of defending themselves from their crazy ex than women are. As a boyfriend you might worry that she's going to cheat on you with her ex, as the ex, you might be a lot worried that she's going to kill you. And that risk is bigger if your the ex-girlfriend, since it's harder to rape and murder a man with your bare hands as a female than vice versa.

"It happens, and it's a concern, but men are more physically capable of defending themselves from their crazy ex than women are."

This myth is why sexual abuse against men is so under-reported that we have no idea the rate at which it happens. In a world that includes fire arms, this statement simply does not hold true. Yes, the average man can defeat the average woman if both are unarmed, both are aware of what's going on, and both are able to fight--but stalkers tend not to allow those situations to happen.

Also: If you're worried about your ex being a stalker, you have MUCH bigger things to worry about than some steamy literature. There are other warning signs, and every one of them is a red flag that should sink any relationship. Yes, I know they often come out slowly; I'm very familiar with the epidemiology of stalking. My point still stands--when those warning signs arise, you should bail--and fiction isn't a significant warning sign in an otherwise sane individual.

I used words like "more" and "as much" or a reason. Firearms aren't entirely ubiquitous.

when those warning signs arise, you should bail

Could one of those warning signs be "he keeps creepy CGI porn of his ex-girlfriend from 10 years ago around on his desktop" ?

#2. I think social convention will largely take care of this. Also any future girlfriends who discover that you used to masturbate to simulated ex-girlfriends, when they find your collection of virtual porn.

#4. I went into a Lowe's recently (we usually shop at Home Depot), and noticed that it's essentially identical to a Home Depot only the signs are blue instead of red. Made me wonder if people will start identifying Lowe's as a "Democratic" hardware store and home Depot as a "Republican" one.

Eh, the trend doesn't seem social convention constrain sexual expression too much. It's not like it takes care of fangirls flicking the bean to Voldemort or anything (whatever JK Rowling might have thought of their fantasies...). Such things seem increasingly happily disclosed!

It seems more likely than not to me that increasingly young people will.... not care about this stuff when VR and easy, far more advanced than today CGI is trivially what they have grown up immersed in.

All men, including your husband, masturbate to ex-girlfriends. Don't need CGI to do that.

Most men occasionally think of other women while they are actually having sex with their current wife/girlfriend. Including your husband.

Indeed, you don't need CGI to do that. That's why having a CGI generated porno software on your computer featuring an ex would come across as a little creepy.

There is a difference between memories and porn/photos/movies when it comes to that.

Some people have poorer memories and imaginations! It seems poor form to deprive them of technology which allows them the sort of vivid reminiscence and re-creation that people with better imaginations can enjoy...

Ultimately these don't seem like problems with the technology or even any kind of moral violation but (perhaps somewhat prudish?) assumptions about people remaining fixated on something long past in a new relationship. Which may not usually hold true.

I think people who grow up with these technologies, with VR, will treat them in a more natural way, more like a natural memory that you can call up in a clearer form, through technology. When we look at this as older people we will see it through a lens tainted by disgust/fear of new tech and stigmatizing towards early adopters.

Im not sure memory is so special. Some of the same people out there who would be sexually jealous of a past that they probably would insist partners Eternal Sunshine themselves, were it possible....

Cheap cameras and cost less reproduction and distribution of imagery had 1000x the impact that VR ever will. Non story.

Yeah, but cameras can't make an image of someone you aren't in a relationship with, without their consent, not without peering in their window with a telescoping lens and other illegal activities, which would generally be recognized as stalking behavior.

In 1950 you could take a newspaper clipping of a celebrity and paste her face onto the body of a nude photo of someone else. That is exactly what this story is screeching about. It's not news.

I always thought Lowes was a little "southern" with all the Nascar and Biltmore tie-ins.

1. One could theoretically stay home, and buy an acre of protection, or whatever. Theoretically. Though perhaps that is a harder sell.

4. Tyler himself covered this topic earlier: What if all businesses were politically polarized? (MR, March 8, 2018). The linked Bloomberg column mentioned Northern Ireland as a real-life example.

An MR commentator in 2018 mentioned the historical phenomenon of Pillarization (Wikipedia link) in the Netherlands, where society was divided into vertical “pillars” (Catholic, Protestant, Social-Democratic), each with their own self-segregated institutions. Fun fact: the Wikipedia article mentions that even the Dutch resistance during World War II was pillarized.

Belgium had something similar. From Wikipedia:

In 1911, the British sociologist Seebohm Rowntree noted that in Belgium: “There is extraordinarily little social intercourse between Catholics and Liberals, and practically none between Catholics and Socialists. Politics enter into almost every phase of social activity and philanthropic effort, and it is the exception rather than the rule for persons holding different political opinions to co-operate in any other matter. Thus in one town there will be a Catholic, a Liberal and a Socialist trade union, a Catholic, a Liberal and a Socialist thrift society, each catering for similar people, but each confining its attentions to members of its own political party. The separation extends to cafes, gymnasia, choral, temperance, and literary societies; indeed it cuts through life!”

Nothing new under the sun, and back to the future?

Do check out the Wikipedia link (above, namely ).

Tactical mistake? There's a new pillar in town, with amplification:

#5: Robinson and Subrick argue that Adam Smith knew the labor theory of value made no sense, but told the “noble lie” to persuade readers that workers would be valued and get their due in a liberal regime. I don’t find this plausible because in reading Smith I never get get the sense that he’s fibbing as a rhetorical device.

And if this was a lie, it was the most spectacular case of blowback in history, as Marx subsequently used the labor theory of value to argue precisely the opposite—that workers are exploited and do not get their due.

Smith wasn't engaged in any battle of ideas with proto-Marxists; that’s perhaps a retrojection of current concerns about income inequality to the 18th century. Rather, Smith was fighting mercantilist ideas, such as what might be called the “gold theory of value,” that holding specie is what makes a nation wealthy.

A simpler explanation for Smith’s labor theory of value (which he only applied to the “rude state of nature”) is that he was pointing to a noble truth: a nation’s wealth is rooted in its industriousness, not its holdings of gold coin.

Dear AlexR: Thanks for the good comments. I think that to suggest that Smith's labor-theory intonations amount to nothing more than the noble truth that a nation's wealth is rooted in its industrious is tantamount to agreeing with the paper. Incidentally, Smith says that even in the earliest and rudest state of society labor is not homogeneous. As for your point about Marx turning labor-theory intonations against liberalism, that makes sense, but could Smith have anticipated that?

Thanks, Daniel. I’m not faulting Smith for failing to anticipate Marx. My quarrel is with the authors’ attribution of mendacity to the man.

The authors might think it’s rehabilitative of Smith to portray him as having lied rather than having goofed. Personally, I consider an honest goof to be far nobler than a lie.

I also think that, in the midst of mercantilist polemics, Smith always had the “supply side” mostly on his mind (as for example the division of labor and extent of the market, the invisible hand, etc.) and hadn’t fully developed “demand side” thinking.

I think his “rudest state of nature” was a toy model to get mercantilist minded readers to grasp the basic idea of labor (rather than gold) as a source of wealth. As you point out, he immediately qualifies his story by noting the heterogeneity of labor even in this rudest state. To me, that supports the idea that he was using a toy model. He goes on to brilliantly note that the wages of skilled workers were likely a normal return to what today we call human capital investment!

But, again, he gets wrong-footed on the demand side, stating that consumers value the products of skilled work because they “esteem” the underlying skill required.

He goofed. It doesn’t bother me to say so.

On the way to inventing modern economics, he got 80% of the way there. He missed comparative advantage, supply-and-demand scissors, and some other things, thereby giving 19th and 20th century economists something to do.

My admiration remains undiminished.

+1 Cool that someone bothered to think about historical context.

#4 Just saying, I said this here two months ago:

Comments for this post are closed