David Brooks on how wokeness will get watered down

But as the discourse gets more corporatized it’s going to get watered down. The primary ideology in America is success; that ideology has a tendency to absorb all rivals.

We saw this happen between the 1970s and the 1990s. American hippies built a genuinely bohemian counterculture. But as they got older they wanted to succeed. They brought their bohemian values into the market, but year by year those values got thinner and thinner and finally were nonexistent.

Corporations and other establishment organizations co-opt almost unconsciously. They send ambitious young people powerful signals about what level of dissent will be tolerated while embracing dissident values as a form of marketing. By taking what was dangerous and aestheticizing it, they turn it into a product or a brand. Pretty soon key concepts like “privilege” are reduced to empty catchphrases floating everywhere.

Here is the full NYT link.

The gender confidence gap in economics

From Heather Sarsons and Guo Xu, in the new AEA Papers and Proceedings:

Women are 7.3 percentage points less likely to provide extreme judgments (column 1). In terms of magnitude, this gap is economically large. Compared to the mean of the dependent vari-able (19.8 percent), this corresponds to a gap of 36 percent. The gap is somewhat smaller for the self-reported confidence level but still nontrivial (column 3). On average, women tend to report a confidence score that is 0.221 points lower than men. This corresponds to a gap of 4 percent when evaluated against the mean...

The results show that both men and women are less confident when asked questions outside of their field but that a confidence gap persists. For example, while men are 5 percentage points less likely to give an extreme answer when speaking on a topic out-side of their primary field, women are 9.2 percentage points less likely to do so (column 1). For the measure of confidence, men are on average 0.585 points less confident when speaking on a topic outside their primary field (column 2). Once again, that confidence gap is significantly larger for women. We would expect women to be less confident than men when answering questions outside of their field if women actually have a narrower range of expertise than men do. The results, however, do not change when we control for the respondents’ breadth of expertise using RePEc data and allow breadth to vary by gender. More importantly, accounting for the differential confidence when moving beyond one’s own field “explains away” the level effect of gender.

it appears that the confidence gap emerges when women are speaking on topics on which they might be less informed.

I would be curious to see if similar results hold for bloggers (blog commenters?) and Op-Ed writers, or whether it is “the Margaret Thatcher syndrome” at work.

Cash transfers vs. in-kind health care assistance

The benefit of Medicaid coverage received by a newly insured adult is less than half what that coverage costs taxpayers, which is about $5,500 a year.

The reason is simple: The uninsured already receive a substantial amount of health care, but pay for only a very small portion of it, especially when their medical bills are high.

We have estimated that 60 percent of government spending to expand Medicaid to new recipients ends up paying for care that the nominally uninsured already receive, courtesy of taxpayer dollars and hospital resources. In other words, from the recipient’s perspective the alternatives are $5,500 in cash or only about 40 percent of that — $2,200 — in health insurance benefits, on top of the care they were already receiving.

That is from Amy Finkelstein at the NYT.

Ezra Klein on UFOs

What if they turn out to be “a thing”?  Here is one excerpt, to be clear this is not the only view or possibility he is putting forward:

One immediate effect, I suspect, would be a collapse in public trust. Decades of U.F.O. reports and conspiracies would take on a different cast. Governments would be seen as having withheld a profound truth from the public, whether or not they actually did. We already live in an age of conspiracy theories. Now the guardrails would truly shatter, because if U.F.O.s were real, despite decades of dismissals, who would remain trusted to say anything else was false? Certainly not the academics who’d laughed them off as nonsense, or the governments who would now be seen as liars.

And this:

One lesson of the pandemic is that humanity’s desire for normalcy is an underrated force, and there is no single mistake as common to political analysis as the constant belief that this or that event will finally change everything. If so many can deny or downplay a disease that’s killed millions, dismissing some unusual debris would be trivial. “An awful lot of people would basically shrug and it’d be in the news for three days,” Adrian Tchaikovsky, the science fiction writer, told me. “You can’t just say, ‘still no understanding of alien thing!’ every day. An awful lot of people would be very keen on continuing with their lives and routines no matter what.”

Excellent column, do read the whole thing (NYT).

The inflation trilemma

You all know by now that the measured rate of price inflation came in at 4.2%, much higher than expected.  Many people wish to maintain this is not a major problem, and maybe they are right.  But here are three views you cannot hold simultaneously:

1. The distribution of income really matters.

2. Workers don’t have nearly enough bargaining power, and are at a disadvantage in negotiations and renegotiations.

3. Higher rates of price inflation are not a problem.

Higher rates of price inflation, of course, lower real wages unless workers can bargain back up the nominal wage to reattain their previous real wage.  You could try the “poor people win it back on their nominal debt” argument, but a) debt has to be high relative to the future stream of wages, b) wages also serve allocational and motivating functions, and c) if worker wages don’t rise much to offset the inflation, future borrowing will be more costly, in real terms too even though it looks like “only a nominal interest rate increase.”

The dating culture that is Korean

Some Korean couples have found a way to redefine romance — by gifting each other Tesla and other blue-chip stocks.

It all started when securities brokerage and investment banking company Shinhan Investment Corp started listing “stock gift cards” on the KakaoTalk mobile app’s “Kakao Gift” store around Christmas last year.

Perhaps inspired by Kanye West’s 2017 Christmas gift to Kim Kardashian, which included Amazon, Apple, Disney, and Netflix stock, KakaoTalk allows would-be wooers to purchase stock in Starbucks rather than simply a latte from the coffee chain. Daters can also select more expensive stocks, including Apple stock gift cards sold at 25,000 KRW ($22), or Tesla stock gift cards, which go for 30,000 KRW ($26)…

According to statistics seen by Korean media outlet Chosun Ilbo, the Shinhan Investment bank sold more than 20,000 “stock gift cards” since the launch of the program on December 24, 2020. Shinhan noted that the stocks were most popular among customers in their 20s and 30s.

Here is the full story.  Is this a way of signaling you really do want the relationship to be about money (and a high savings rate?) to a relatively high degree?  Or does the particular choice of stock show that you do (do not) understand your partner very well?

Wednesday assorted links

Where Next? Forecasting COVID in India

The Development Data Lab has put together a real-time forecast of COVID by district in India.

The underlying dataset of the portal is open-access and has information on total cases, deaths, estimated reproductive rate, total clinics and hospitals at the district level. Our hope is that residents of high-risk district will adjust behavior if their area has a precariously increasing reproduction rate over time. Even better if aid and medical support that many organizations are mobilizing at an impressive pace could be allocated based on district-level evidence. District-level bureaucrats can incorporate this additional information in planning their pandemic response (most of us have read about the striking example of what the District Collector of Nandurbar was able to achieve to prepare against the second wave). Finally, central and state governments could tailor their pandemic response given the obvious paucity of resources and time based on district-level risk estimates.

Overall, knowing where the virus will strike next can help save lives — by guiding behavior change, local public health measures, and allocation of scarce resources.

This is an important resource. Anup Malani, Satej Soman, Sabareesh Ramachandran, Ruchir Agarwal, Sam Asher, Tobias Lunt, Paul Novosad, and Aditi Bhowmick are some of the people working on this.

China Straussian poem-sharing mistake of the day

Shares in Chinese food delivery giant Meituan have fallen sharply after its boss reportedly shared a 1,000-year-old poem on social media.

The Book Burning Pit by Zhang Jie was posted, then deleted, by the firm’s billionaire chief executive, Wang Xing.

The Tang dynasty poem was interpreted as a veiled criticism of President Xi Jinping’s government.

Meituan is currently under investigation over allegations of abusing its market dominance.

The company is one of China’s biggest takeaway food delivery and lifestyle services platforms and is backed by technology giant Tencent…

Despite the statement, Meituan’s Hong Kong-listed shares have fallen by around 14% since the market opened on Monday morning. Investors are jittery as Chinese business leaders who have been seen to criticise the government have found their companies come under intense scrutiny from authorities.

Here is the full story.  Via Rich D.

The first date book walk out meme

Michele W. (citing @ogbrenna) asked on Twitter:

You’re on a first date with someone, and they tell you the name of their favorite book. You immediately leave. What’s the book?

This caused Atlas Shrugged to trend, and The Bible was another popular response.  It is striking to me how, with a simple change of setting, and a shift in the mood affiliation of the example, how discrimination on the basis of religion suddenly is glorified and celebrated.  Funny how few cited The Quran, or for that matter “The Hebrew Bible,” albeit for two very different reasons.

(By the way, I’ve been going around to many San Francisco book stores, and none of them carry the new Sarah Ruden translation of The Gospels, which is likely a significant work.  I could feel people looking down on me as I asked for it.  Part of me wanted to say “But this is Sarah Ruden,” but that would be making the problem only worse.  Since I did not feel tempted to say “But this is God,” perhaps I am part of the problem.)

Why not email a bit with a potential date beforehand, if such matters are so important?  Or is this meme a simple, never-to-be-enacted revenge fantasy for those who don’t quite have the options they might ideally prefer?

One thing the contemporary world definitely has not come to terms with is how much a highly feminized culture will be (rather strongly) enforcing new forms of discrimination, albeit cloaked under different and rhetorically emancipatory principles.

Addendum: Here is a statistics variant.

How are the major tech hubs evolving?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is the section on Miami:

In Miami and Miami Beach I had a wonderful time. But I don’t see the area as a new and budding tech center. Many tech entrepreneurs moved there during earlier phases of the pandemic, but many have since left. Perhaps the region is more of a place to spend tech money than to earn tech money.

The positives for southern Florida are clear: It is a major crossroads with significant connections to Latin America and the Caribbean, it is a fun place to live, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez is pro-tech, and there is no state income tax.

Yet that is not enough. Miami does not have a top-tier university, and the city does not have much of what I would call “nerd culture.” The city’s first language is arguably Spanish, but the tech world is mostly English, and its current ties to Asia are more important than possible future connections to Latin America.

Renowned venture capitalist Keith Rabois is in Miami and is a staunch advocate for the city. It would not be surprising if Miami developed a few significant tech companies due to his influence. Miami could also become more of a center for crypto wealth. If you’ve earned a billion dollars through Bitcoin, and live part of the year in Puerto Rico to avoid capital gains taxes, is there anywhere better to hang out and spend your wealth than Miami?

All that said, I do not see Miami as a serious contender to be a major tech center.

Comments on NYC and the Bay Area then follow…