My Conversation with Glen Weyl

I found it interesting throughout, the first half was on Covid-19 testing, and the second half on everything else.  Here is the audio and transcript.  Here is the summary:

Tyler invited Glen to discuss the plan, including how it’d overcome obstacles to scaling up testing and tracing, what other countries got right and wrong in their responses, the unusual reason why he’s bothered by price gouging on PPE supplies, where his plan differs with Paul Romer’s, and more. They also discuss academia’s responsibility to inform public discourse, how he’d apply his ideas on mechanism design to reform tenure and admissions, his unique intellectual journey from socialism to libertarianism and beyond, the common element that attracts him to both the movie Memento and Don McLean’s “American Pie,” what talent he looks for in young economists, the struggle to straddle the divide between academia and politics, the benefits and drawbacks of rollerblading to class, and more.

Here is one excerpt:



For me the most instructive part was this:

COWEN: What do you view yourself as rebelling against? At the foundational level.

But you will have to read or listen to hear Glen’s very good answer.

Definitely recommended.


>>>But those people are basically transmitting the diseases they always have been. And so, by far, our first priority has to be not “reopening the economy,” but rather stabilizing that sector of the economy so that transmission is not taking place within that sector.

If 40% of people are still transmitting disease and the hospital system is nowhere near overwhelmed, why in the world would we care about getting even more restrictive on those 40%? Clearly the precautions that they're taking are working. We should let so-called "non-essential" workers go back to work taking the same precautions.

Not to mention, if the disease is as communicable as it supposedly is - and I have no reason to believe otherwise - that 40% is mostly immune already or will be soon.

A hard light will be shone on the vicissitudes of mathematical expertise/quackery when construction and destruction are traded-off on a non-linear inflexion.

"that it becomes increasingly illegitimate for them to be run under a pure shareholder-maximization perspective "

No corporation runs under a pure shareholder-maximization perspective. Well maybe some criminal organizations do. But no legal entity. They are always balancing worker contentment, governmental regulations, customer satisfaction, public image, potential law suits, suppliers, distributors, taxing authorities, etc.

Granted, over the long run, keeping the government, society, customers and suppliers does generate shareholder wealth. Poorly run companies are General Motors, PG&E , Enron, etc. They didn't maximize shareholder returns.

I'm unable to define what is meant by "shareholder maximization". What maximizes shareholder "value" today, instantly, bears little (or no) similarity to short, medium, or long term maximization. It is especially meaningless if we understand that complying with regulations, laws, ethics, morals, contracts, and expectations is unnecessary. BTW, I think you forgot to include a word..."keeping the government,...*X?* does generate". Also, I want to point out that he prolly didn't mean "illegitimate" since it makes little sense if taken literally, he prolly meant something like "unsustainable" or "unsupportable".

"BTW, I think you forgot to include a word..."keeping the government,...*X?* does generate""

Yes, my mistake. X= satisfied.

"Also, I want to point out that he prolly didn't mean "illegitimate" since it makes little sense if taken literally, he prolly meant something like "unsustainable" or "unsupportable"."

I gave him that, since it seemed the charitable interpretation of his verbiage.

"What maximizes shareholder "value" today, instantly, bears little (or no) similarity to short, medium, or long term maximization."

Agreed. I think the evidence indicates that shareholder value is set by societal standards more than anything else. A corporation that is obviously more greedy (or worse PR) than it's peers, is considered bad, a corporation that is less greedy (or at least has better PR) is good.

Are corporations more or less greedy than small businesses? Do they pay their workers more or less? Do they comply with regulations to a greater or lesser extent? Does the owner of a small business make more or less in percentage of income than the shareholders?

I think that generally speaking corporations behave better than small businesses. At least as measured by the outcome to the stakeholders.

"What did Singapore do wrong, and how will we avoid that same mistake?"
I think we're exaggerating Singapore's problems they have 2 deaths per million and 14 overall which is better than just about every country including Iceland.
They had a problem with migrant workers housing and reacted accordingly. I don't think there is a serious problem there.

Singapore also instituted a more severe lockdown than the USA.

Bonus trivia: Glen Weyl is only 35 years old and this: "Weyl was born in San Francisco,[1] and grew up in Palo Alto, California.[6] He is Jewish.[7] His family favored the Democratic Party, but Weyl grew towards free market principles after being introduced to the works of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.[8]" - my gosh, he's unstable?! Who under age 40 reads Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman?! Who is John Galt?!

Any relation to Nathaniel Weyl, who did a lot of interesting Gregory Clark-style surname analysis back in the 1960s with Steffan Possony (Jerry Pournelle's mentor)? N. Weyl started out as a Communist, then became an-anti-Communist to such an extent that his name comes up in some leftist JFK assassination theories.

That the founders of the modern Jewish state were socialists and the economy of Israel was socialist will come as a surprise to most readers of this blog. Much has been studied and written about this but I will just mention two factors: (1) the early residents of modern day Israel arrived with nothing and had no choice but to rely on each other and (2) Israel for Israelis. Today, Israel is far from its socialist origins. Why? The inverse of those two factors: (1) economic winners and economic losers had adverse interests and (2) Israel isn't just for Israelis anymore.

"That the founders of the modern Jewish state were socialists and the economy of Israel was socialist will come as a surprise to most readers of this blog"
I highly doubt it. Most commenters here have a very solid knowledge of history.

The author of "Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society" thinks that the result of some random crisis will be "a lot of large corporations that take on important social responsibilities".


Sure, as a result of the pandemic we will all work for large corporations. And rent housing from them and buy groceries from them and buy health care services from them and so on. Dystopia or paradise? I must say, I had reason to change insurers for one of my cars last week and the experience with the very large insurer I chose was most unpleasant. I didn't feel like I was in good hands. On the other hand, those getting covid 19 have a much worse experience so I feel fortunate.

someone should start a laundry list:
1. Internet sales tax enactment & enforcement.
2. Social Security & Medicare reform.
title "it things that will likely change soon."
allow the vast unwashed to vote on each (likely/unlikely) (if we can avoid too much mood affiliation)

Who is Glen Weyl btw? I know he inventing quadratic-voting, is kind of affiliated uchicago and maybe a big deal at microsoft research? Am I missing anything?

Lots of people have plans. Twitter is alive with them. No one talks about the meta issue of how you get dysfunctional governments to project manage themselves out of a paper bag, much less organize something on this scale.

I listened to it this morning. Well done to our host Prof. Cowan for asking the right questions.

“ My guess is that there will be a lot of large corporations that take on important social responsibilities” I’ve been thinking about this viz. social media giants and censorship. The retort is always, They are non-governmental corporations, and thus not beholden to the first amendment. Yet lately I’ve been hearing that these organizations have been removing content at the behest of governments, both at the federal and state level in the US, and from other nations. Doesn’t this then provide grounds for first amendment litigation? If governments censor expression through influencing a corporation, isn’t that still prohibited suppression?

You have a conversation on CV, but you don't discuss Sweden or Japan?!

(I understand not bringing up Japan since that would highlight Cowen's perpetual error about them, but why not Sweden?)

Tyler won't mention Japan again because he has been completely wrong about the tragedy there were 350 have died from Covid-19. Notice that when he talked about Singapore and how they "went wrong and have 900 cases a say" (eye roll...) that the have had 14 deaths compared to Taiwan, which he praises, has had 6 deaths.

As Dave Berry says: "You can't make this up."

"My guess is that there will be a lot of large corporations that take on important social responsibilities ..."

Like Trade Guilds, like the Nobility, like the Bishops of Late Antiquity, or like the East India Company?

"A lot of the leading businesses in this country have a very high degree of trust. The state governments, local governments have a very high degree of trust." Was this broadcast from a different planet?

Yeah, I snorted at that line too.

Very politely ignoring the giant sucking sound where our federal leadership should be.

"Consortium of Governors?" how bout ... I dunno ... availing ourselves of the nation we're supposedly a part of?

I get that we're tired of anti-trump and anti-anti trump etc., but there's an extended conversation about how to organize a response that neatly sidesteps the fact that we know we can't depend on POTUS for any of this. Like when we all know Dad's an alcoholic so if we want to eat it's on us. No point whining, it's just how he is.

Some points from an email I just sent to Professor Weyl.

The big point about merging one's identities is extremely important. Compartmentalization reduces cross-fertilization and also permits a person to have internal contradictions in this thinking comfortably.

A key element in any policy oughtt o be fevers. It's cheap and easy to test temperatures. You can think of it as a not very acccurate Covid-19 test with an average cost of maybe .25 and a marginal cost of .05. To be sure, people worry about asymptomatic spreaders, but I am skeptical that such spreaders have a significant effect. I bet it spreads from sneezes adn coughs and people with drippy noses (which may be caused by colds, not covid) who don't wash their hands. We have to think about the Slob as Superspreader.

I was just teaching Bayes's Rule, and am learning Python and CGI, so I have written a frequency box app using infection testing as an example at . I'll put it up on Github when I get round to it. It's just in CGI; I'll learn something better like Django if it gets enough traffic for the slowness to matter. I also used it to make the diagram one currently sees in the Wikipedia entry Bayes THeorem.

On false positive tests, these appear to be extremely low. Note that Australia performed 13,855 tests yesterday and recorded 15 total positives for a total positive rate of 0.1%.

Was anyone else alarmed by the casual comment that the banks may collapse, within a few weeks, if mortgages aren't getting paid, and even the feds wouldn't be able to shore them up with enough cash?

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