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Euthanasia and bargaining power within the family

Let’s say more of the world moves to a Netherlands-style euthanasia law.  While euthanasia is at first based on individual consent, it usually evolves into a “in unclear cases your spouse or guardian has the actual say.”

How will this affect bargaining power within the family?  Here are a few options:

1. Family members will be much nicer to each other, ex ante, so they will be kept around for longer if they come down sick.

1b. Because of time consistency problems, family members won’t be much nicer with each other.

1c. You fear that family members aren’t willing enough to pull the plug on you, so you become actively less nice.

2. Family members will be much more anxious with each other, because they will so often be wondering how the others will wish to dispose of them, and when.

3. Some family members will make explicit ex ante deals, such as: “You can send me to my doom when the time comes, with a clear conscience, but on Tuesday nights we’re going to watch my game shows, not your reality TV.”

4. “It stresses me out that you are stressed out over my dying, so I will apply for euthanasia right here and now, even though I still have nine months to live with my cancer.  Except I will tell you that I just don’t want to live any longer, so you don’t feel bad about why I am doing this.”

5. You have no family and given your illness you are a net revenue drain on your nursing home.  If you go back to live out your final days, you’ll end up with the worst room and less spicy food and no private TV.  You agree to euthanasia, granted that they send $20,000 to your favorite charity.  You leave this earth with a warm glow, feeling that 20k probably saved at least one life.  In reality, with p = 0.68 it subsidized someone’s overhead.

What else?

What I’ve been reading

The Virtue of Nationalism, by Yoram Hazony.  Falls into the “contrarian, but shouldn’t need to be contrarian” category.  It makes good points, but I felt it was interior to my knowledge set.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Spring, a comeback for Knausgaard.

Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Quran and the Bible: Text and Commentary.  I won’t have the time soon to work through the thousand pages of this book, but it appears to be a major achievement and of very high quality.  Here is the book’s home page.  Here is a good piece by Reynolds on related topics.

Nick Polson and James Scott, AIQ: How People and Machines are Smarter Together, is a new and (believe it or not) original and very good take on this theme.

Heiner Rindermann, Cognitive Capitalism: Human Capital and Wellbeing of Nations perhaps covers too much ground, but is still a very useful 500 pp. plus survey of exactly what the title suggests.

Jan Assmann, The Invention of Religion: Faith and Covenant in the Book of Exodus.  One of the best introductory works on the best and most important book ever written.

How many atheists are there?

One crucible for theories of religion is their ability to predict and explain the patterns of belief and disbelief. Yet, religious nonbelief is often heavily stigmatized, potentially leading many atheists to refrain from outing themselves even in anonymous polls. We used the unmatched count technique and Bayesian estimation to indirectly estimate atheist prevalence in two nationally representative samples of 2,000 U.S. adults apiece. Widely cited telephone polls (e.g., Gallup, Pew) suggest U.S. atheist prevalence of only 3–11%. In contrast, our most credible indirect estimate is 26% (albeit with considerable estimate and method uncertainty). Our data and model predict that atheist prevalence exceeds 11% with greater than .99 probability and exceeds 20% with roughly .8 probability. Prevalence estimates of 11% were even less credible than estimates of 40%, and all intermediate estimates were more credible. Some popular theoretical approaches to religious cognition may require heavy revision to accommodate actual levels of religious disbelief.

That is from Will M. Gervais and Maxine B. Naije, via someone on Twitter I think (God only knows).

Sunday assorted links

1. Scientists to grow ‘mini-brains’ using Neanderthal DNA.

2. “Has it occurred to you that nobody talks about sellouts anymore?”  Was Kurt Cobain the last “authentic” musician of import?

3. “MacLean said she realized the book she was writing “had 275 pages of a character who probably would have voted for Donald Trump,” so she deleted the entire manuscript.”  Link here.

4. I hadn’t know that Mariana Mazzucato grew up in New Jersey (FT, good profile of her).

5. A Borges drawing before he lost his sight.

Saturday assorted links

Eric R. Weinstein, as he exists in the observerse

There’s been so much back and forth about Eric Weinstein (Wikipedia here) on Twitter lately, mostly because he was identified by Bari Weiss in the NYT as belonging to an “intellectual dark web.”

I first met Eric at a Victor Niederhoffer Junto event in New York City, and I have kept in touch with him over the years.  I’ve never thought of Eric as “intellectual dark web,” whatever that might mean, and I don’t even much associate him with the web, much less darkness (intellectual, yes).  I would also note that, although I’ve spent a fair number of hours chatting with him, and was interviewed by him once, I could not characterize his political views in any simple way.  And I was surprised to learn that the article described him as having supported Bernie Sanders.

I would say this: if you wish to sit down and chat with someone, and receive new and interesting and original ideas, Eric is one of the most “generative” people I know, easily in the top five or higher yet.  And I know a number of very smart others who would concur in this claim.  Quite simply, that is the source of Eric’s influence and semi-fame.

I don’t pretend any comprehensive knowledge of Eric’s views, and I don’t doubt he might believe many things I would diagree with, starting with claims about Bernie Sanders.  But the third paragraph of this post is the most fundamental intellectual fact about Eric, and if one does not know that, one does not know Eric.

Addendum: Eric also has research in mathematics and physics which I am not close to being able to assess: “Weinstein claimed in his dissertation research that the self-dual Yang–Mills equations on which Donaldson theory was built were not unique as was believed at the time, putting forward two sets of alternate equations based on spinorial constructions.”

The culture that is Arlington youth soccer

The Arlington Soccer Association is asking parents to pipe down this weekend, scheduling a day of “silent soccer” for its recreational league.

Managers of the 6,000-member league are encouraging parents and other spectators to refrain from cheering and offer their support silently on Saturday (May 12) for teams with players ranging from second grade through high school.

Dan Ferguson, ASA’s recreational soccer director, says fans of kids in kindergarten and first grade will still be able to cheer as loud as they’d like this weekend. But, for the rest of the league’s teams, he’s hoping to give players a bit of a break from the constant feedback they receive from the sidelines.

“It’s a reminder to adults that kids don’t need constant instruction to be able to play the game,” Ferguson told ARLnow. “Sometimes parents feel like their kids are lost when we do this, but we try to tell them: ‘That’s okay.’ We’re not really here for the wins and losses.”

Ferguson says ASA has been holding “silent soccer” days on Mother’s Day weekend for at least the last six or seven years, and he’s consistently gotten positive feedback from coaches and parents about the event. In fact, he says some coaches continue to ask spectators to keep quiet even after the weekend is over.

“The overwhelming reaction is the kids seem to enjoy it,” Ferguson said. “They can actually hear each other talk on the field, communicating with their teammates and giving them instructions.”

Here is the full article, and for the pointer I thank Bruce Arthur.  Via Steve Rossi, here is a related and more general post.

Friday assorted links

Is China moving back toward Marx?

And should we celebrate along with Xi Jinping?  That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, with plenty on the debates within socialist thought, here is the close:

Do I expect those future political reforms to take a Marxian path of the dictatorship of the proletariat? Probably not. But when it comes to China, Marx is the one theorist who has not yet been refuted. It’s the Western liberals and the Maoists who both have egg on their faces.

If you think of Western liberalism as the relevant alternative, you might feel discomfort at the Chinese revival of Marx. But if you think a bit longer on Maoism, its role in Chinese history and its strong nativist roots, you too might join in the Marx celebrations.

Do read the whole thing.

*Paul Simon: The Life*

In 1974, near the peak of his fame, Paul Simon started taking music lessons.

The melody of “American Tune,” my favorite Paul Simon song, is taken from a Bach chorale from St. Matthew’s Passion.

Paul Simon originally was to have played guitar on “Rock Island Line” for the Nilsson/Lennon Pussy Cats album, but Lennon and Simon could not get along with each other and Lennon kept on putting his hand on Simon’s guitar strings to stop him from playing, eventually causing Simon to leave.

Art Garfunkel originally was slated to be dual vocalist on the Hearts and Bones album (TC’s favorite Paul Simon creation by the way), though Simon cut out the vocal tracks that Garfunkel had recorded.

Around 2012 Simon developed a strong interest in the music of American “hobo composer” Harry Partch.

Those are from the new Paul Simon biography by Robert Hilburn.

Thursday assorted links

1. “The results indicate that yearly GDP growth rates are inflated by a factor of between 1.15 and 1.3 in the most authoritarian regimes.

2. Long, serious study of the Chinese social credit system.

3. Roger Scruton defends wine I call it a critique.  Here is another relevant take (NYT).

4. We’ve always been screwed up, by Ezra Klein.

5. Arnold Kling on the intellectual dark web.  I would suggest that the critical coverage of that Bari Weiss NYT piece has been weak, most of all under-informed and overly aggregative and showing relatively little familiarity with the people in question, some of whom are excellent and some of whom are not.

6. How do people feel about drones?

My Conversation with Bryan Caplan

Bryan was in top form, I can’t recall hearing him being more interesting or persuasive.  Here is the audio and text.  We talked about whether any single paper is good enough, the autodidact’s curse, the philosopher who most influenced Bryan, the case against education, the Straussian reading of Bryan, effective altruism, Socrates, Larry David, where to live in 527 A.D., the charm of Richard Wagner, and much more.  Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: You love Tolstoy, right?

CAPLAN: Yeah. You love Tolstoy because here’s a guy who not only has this encyclopedic knowledge of human beings — you say he knows human nature. Tolstoy knows human natures. He realizes that there are hundreds of kinds of people, and like an entomologist, he has the patience to study each kind on its own terms.

Tolstoy, you read it: “There are 17 kinds of little old ladies. This was the 13th kind. This was the kind that’s very interested in what you’re eating but doesn’t wish to hear about your romance, which will be contrasted with the seventh kind which has exactly the opposite preferences.” That’s what’s to me so great about Tolstoy.

Here is one of my questions:

What’s the fundamental feature in Bryan Caplan–think that has made you, unlike most other nerds, so much more interested in Stalin than science fiction?

Here is another exchange:

COWEN: You think, in our society in general, this action bias infests everything? Or is there some reason why it’s drawn like a magnet to education?

CAPLAN: Action bias primarily drives government. For individuals, I think even there there’s some action bias. But nevertheless, for the individual, there is the cost of just going and trying something that’s not very likely to succeed, and the connection with the failure and disappointment, and a lot of things don’t work out.

There’s a lot of people who would like to start their own business, but they don’t try because they have some sense that it’s really hard.

What I see in government is, there isn’t the same kind of filter, which is a big part of my work in general in politics. You don’t have the same kind of personal disincentives against doing things that sound good but actually don’t work out very well in practice.

Probably even bigger than action bias is actually what psychologists call social desirability bias: just doing things that sound good whether or not they actually work very well and not really asking hard questions about whether things that sound good will work out very well in practice.

I also present what I think are the three strongest arguments against Bryan’s “education is mostly signaling” argument — decide for yourself how good his answers are.


COWEN: …Parenting and schooling in your take don’t matter so much. Something is changing these [norms] that is mostly not parenting and not schooling. And they are changing quite a bit, right?


COWEN: Is it like all technology? Is the secret reading of Bryan Caplan that you’re a technological determinist?

CAPLAN: I don’t think so. In general, not a determinist of any kind.

COWEN: I was teasing about that.

And last but not least:

CAPLAN: …When someone gets angry at Robin, this is what actually outrages me. I just want to say, “Look, to get angry at Robin is like getting angry at baby Jesus.” He’s just a symbol and embodiment of innocence and decency. For someone to get angry at someone who just wants to learn . . .

COWEN: And when they get mad at me?

CAPLAN: Eh, I understand that.

Hail Bryan Caplan!  Again here is the link, and of course you should buy his book The Case Against Education.

Will monetary tightening halt the labor market recovery?

My latest Bloomberg column is on that topic, here is one bit:

…these days more and more economists, especially those with Keynesian sympathies, are insisting that higher legal minimum wages don’t lower employment much, if at all. If higher real wages don’t much hurt employment, we shouldn’t expect lower real wages to much boost employment. This “new wisdom” on minimum wages contradicts Keynesian labor economics and implies inflation won’t much boost employment, if at all.


One thing we do know about inflation is that voters hate it. Economists sometimes treat this belief as irrational, assuming that workers in aggregate will get raises to compensate for the higher prices. This is true for many top performers, whose income growth would exceed inflation regardless. But a lot of other workers are concentrated in somewhat bureaucratic service-sector jobs, they have weak bargaining power, and their pay is not indexed to inflation. If the rate of price inflation is 4 percent rather than 2 percent, for many people that means their take-home pay is worth 2 percentage points less than it would have been under modest inflation.

And this:

Most discussions about monetary policy aren’t about economic theory (properly understood) at all. Rather they are about blaming the system, as people feel a sense of outrage that somehow someone isn’t trying hard enough to fix basic problems. Most of the claims out there, when put under the microscope of reason, dissolve into a beautiful, brilliant agnosticism.

Here is the full column.  Note that Bloomberg now has a paywall, with I believe ten free articles per month.  Here is information on subscription offers, I urge you all to increase the velocity of money.