So what would you all like to hear about? It can’t hurt to ask, right?
Comments section reform is coming to MR. Yes, we will replace you. Soon (but not today). Habermasian freedom shall reign and the sun will shine ever so brightly!
I will be doing a Conversation with him. Just in case you don’t know him, here is basic information about his work. So what should I ask?
I’ve been wanting for some time to reclaim what I had in my blog days as an independent voice, and a great opportunity has arisen for me to do that on Substack where today I’m launching a new site that you can find and read all about here:https://t.co/hwxPOtHsHm
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) November 13, 2020
A surprising number of individuals responded to my post last week soliciting books about the NIH and NSF. Thank you to those who did and please do still feel free to reach out on this matter.
It became apparent that a highly complementary effort would be a Substack/blog/podcast/similar about the inner workings of the NIH / NSF, and indeed other institutions relevant to the modern-day administration and practice of science. Think SCOTUSblog or Macro Musings, but focused on the NIH/NSF/etc.
So, if you would like to start such a blog/podcast/newsletter, please email me, and that plan will be considered for financial support.
To date there are three:
1. Anton Howes for his Substack Age of Invention. He is a historian of invention, often but not exclusively focusing on the eighteenth century, here is Anton on Twitter. As a separate matter, don’t forget Anton’s excellent recent book Arts & Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation.
2. Works in Progress. Here is their About page: “Works in Progress is a new online magazine dedicated to sharing novel ideas and stories of progress, and features original writing from some of the most interesting thinkers in the world.” The major individuals behind Works in Progress are Sam Bowman, Saloni Dattani, Ben Southwood, and Nick Whitaker, all with bios at the previous link, all strong intellectual forces.
Note also: “Works in Progress is always looking for new writers for upcoming issues and our blog. Reach out if you want to talk about writing for us, with a short summary or abstract of your piece.”
3. Alice Evans, lecturer at King’s College London. Here is Alice on Twitter. She is working on “”THE GREAT GENDER DIVERGENCE” What explains global variation in gender relations?” and here is her related blog on that same topic. Here is her famous post on gender relations in north vs. south India. Her home page also links to her podcast.
I do expect there will be further awards, and I will keep you posted (here is the original announcement). If you just started writing a blog and submitted, you may still be in the running for the future. In the meantime, congratulations to these winners!
Substantive, interesting, and fun throughout, here is the audio, video, and transcript. For more do buy Matt’s new book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. Here is the CWT summary:
They discussed why it’s easier to grow Tokyo than New York City, the governance issues of increasing urban populations, what Tyler got right about pro-immigration arguments, how to respond to declining fertility rates, why he’d be happy to see more people going to church (even though he’s not religious), why liberals and conservatives should take marriage incentive programs more seriously, what larger families would mean for feminism, why people should read Robert Nozick, whether the YIMBY movement will be weakened by COVID-19, how New York City will bounce back, why he’s long on Minneapolis, how to address constitutional ruptures, how to attract more competent people to state and local governments, what he’s learned growing up in a family full of economists, his mother’s wisdom about visual design and more.
Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: Now, I think people, on average, should become more religious, in part because that would encourage fertility. Do you also think people should become more religious?
YGLESIAS: Yeah, if I could be full Straussian and kind of —
COWEN: You can be! It’s not a hypothetical.
YGLESIAS: [laughs] No. I don’t really know how to do it. If I put in my book that I think we should make people be more religious, I don’t know how I would do that.
COWEN: Not make them, but just root for it. Talk up religion.
YGLESIAS: Look, if you told me, for mysterious reasons, church attendance is going to start going back up again over the next 30, 40 years, I would consider that to be a very optimistic forecast for America. I think good secondary things would follow from that. I think community institutions are important, and in a practical sense, religious ones are what seems to really work for people.
When I hear people say, “Oh this new woke anti-racism on the left — that’s like a new religion.” I don’t know that that’s 100 percent accurate. I think there’s something to that, and there’s also ways in which it’s not true.
But if it was really literally true — this is a new religion where people are going to get together once a week, and they’re going to know each other, and they’re going to have a higher value system that motivates them, and they’re going to make connections — that would be really good. Bad things have happened by religious people or under religious causes, but generally speaking, it’s good when people go to church.
COWEN: If you’re rooting for a more religious America, does that mean, in a sense, you’re rooting for a more right-wing America? These are correlated, right? Causality may be tricky, but I suspect there is some.
YGLESIAS: I think probably we say that religiousness is almost constitutive of right-wingy-ness, at least in some definitions. Yeah, I think a more traditionalist America, in some ways, would be good.
It was so much fun we even ran over the allotted time, we had to discuss Gilbert Arenas too.
Wanted to let you know that Alec Stapp and I are launching a new blog today called Agglomerations where we’ll be covering a wide range of tech + innovation policy issues.
My first piece today ties to disentangle technology, innovation, and industrial policy, as I feel the conversations there have been quite muddled as of late. I hope you enjoy it.
In recent years, blogs and blog-like entities have proved one of the most effective ways of debating and advancing worldviews and debating ideas. Slate Star Codex, Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, The Money Illusion, and Paul Graham’s essays are all influential examples. SSC introduced much of the world to the rationalist movement and Effective Altruism. The Dish was at the forefront of the intellectual case for gay marriage. With NGDP targeting, The Money Illusion successfully articulated the case for improvements in monetary policy. Paul Graham’s essays are part of the intellectual firmament behind the explosion of startups over the past 15 years. One could also look to Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, which popularized the subscription newsletter business model and provides some of the very best tech industry commentary. There is now a growing industry of independent Substacks, with Bill Bishop’s Sinocism an influential example.
In 2020, there is an undimmed need for new thinking around how the ideals of liberty and reason can best be applied. You need barely scratch the surface in our prevailing ideologies to find central questions almost completely unaddressed.
Surely better education is an important society-wide goal — but what is the liberal remedy to the failure of our public institutions (like education and healthcare) to generate improvements remotely commensurate with cost increases? Libertarianism remains a valuable critique, but what is a libertarian perspective on why the US can’t develop a COVID-19 vaccine more quickly, or why US universities are so homogeneous and ideological? Conservatives may take exception at the excesses of the so-called social justice movement — but what is a positive and properly balanced theory for how to right various inefficient (and unjust) social wrongs? Advocates for the free market will be biased against restrictions on cross-border trade, but should Indonesia not conclude that industrial policy was of high efficacy for many countries in northeast Asia? Those of a non-interventionist disposition may not worry too much about Taiwan’s near-term security, but would it not be a mistake to neglect the possibility that China’s rise may pose a growing threat to Taiwanese liberty?
It is tempting to believe that we must simply hew more closely to the works of the greats. In closer exegesis and more faithful obeisance to our Bentham, our Mill, our Smith, our Marx, our Hayek, or our Friedman, we’ll find the answers that we seek.
But there is an alternative and more appealing vision, namely that we need new ideas, new syntheses, and new arguments. That said, we need more argumentation and exposition than you will find on Twitter alone.
We therefore invite submissions to a new blog contest, as part of Emergent Ventures (Mercatus Center, George Mason University). Eligible entries:
– Are blogs or blog-like isomorphs. (Posts are reasonably frequent; content is freely available and linkable; at least some posts are mini-essays. Substacks do count, if freely available, noting you are not prohibited from later turning them into profit-making ventures.)
– Started in the past 12 months, or in the next six months.
– Explore ideas relevant to liberty, prosperity, progress, and the foundations of a free society.
“Web 2.0” was a coarse label applied to a broad set of software trends. In a similarly incompletely defined and unapologetic manner, and in homage to the internet-native aspect of these blogs, winners shall be deemed Liberalism 2.0 Fellows.
Within six months, and quite possibly sooner, an initial $100,000 prize will be awarded. Five further awards up to or at a comparable level will be possible if there are enough high-quality submissions (blogs started after this announcement are thus more likely to win the later awards, given the time to prove excellence, though in principle eligible for the first award too). To apply, simply email [email protected], with winners to be announced on Marginal Revolution. Please note that entries will not be acknowledged and only winners will be notified.
I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.
I will be doing a Conversation with him, based in part on his new forthcoming book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. While I have not yet read it, I strongly expect it will be excellent.
So what should I ask?
A few of you have written in and asked me why some people, such as Kevin Lewis and Samir Varma, are designated as say “the excellent Kevin Lewis” on Marginal Revolution.
It is simple — I view this recognition as resulting from a combination of their intelligence and persistence, and thus their excellence in finding and sending me links and interesting commentary. (I have met them both, and they do seem to have other virtues, but those other virtues are not the ones being recognized here.) The word is completely unironic. I view “belief in excellence” as one of the underlying philosophies of MR, and also belief in the notion that excellence should be mentioned and promoted.
In this sense, those designations are quite similar to the ongoing series “My Favorite Things [xxxx]“.
This designation of excellence is also related to why MR does not spend a great deal of time on all of the political depredations of our time. Yes, they are important, but I fear that focusing on them too much would a) make me stupider, and b) distract from an underlying vision of excellence I wish to communicate. I am too selfish to wish to be made stupider in that manner.
More generally, for any media source you are reading, what is the underlying vision of excellence? Or are they just pukers?
If you can trace their underlying vision of excellence (or lack thereof), you will understand much of their material much better.
Eric and his team describe it as follows:
In this episode, Eric sits down with Tyler Cowen to discuss how/why a Harvard educated chess prodigy would choose a commuter school to launch a stealth attack on the self-satisfied economic establishment, various forms of existential risk, tech/social stagnation and more. On first glance, Tyler Cowen is an unlikely candidate for America’s most influential economist. Since 2003, Cowen has grown his widely read and revered economics blog Marginal Revolutions with lively thought, insight and prose resulting in a successful war of attrition against traditional thinking. In fact, his well of heterodox thinking is so deep that there is an argument to be made that Tyler may be the living person with the most diverse set of original rigorous opinions to be found in any conversation. The conversation takes many turns and is thus hard to categorize. We hope you enjoy it.
The site may be down for a bit, or posts might not appear at the usual time, I am genuinely not sure. Or thing might just be totally normal. But apologies in advance for any service interruption.