Results for “mood affiliation”
135 found

From the comments

To Tyler and to all commenters: beware mood affiliation.

It can simultaneously be true that (1) solar technology has substantial environmental and economic downsides, (2) very few people are aware of these downsides, and (3) solar technology is a great boon to humanity’s present and future (i.e., the world we live in is superior to a counterfactual world with no solar).

Also keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, today’s decisions matter more in terms of the technological path they put us on rather than the actual kWh generated today. If solar is generating 50% of Earth’s electricity in the year 2100, then a 5-year acceleration or deceleration in the technology/market/regulation environment could be worth trillions of dollars.

Lastly, many ‘arguments’ seem to occur where one person makes a true claim with a certain mood. A commenter disagrees with that mood, and makes a different true claim. A second commenter disagrees with THAT mood and makes a third true claim. This pattern of discussion is not always healthy. We should hold ourselves to a standard higher than saying things that true. We should say things that build useful generalizeable mental models. If we only say the counterintuitive hipster ‘facts’ we can in fact paint a misleading picture even though we share only facts that rigorously true. (Tyler, I love you and your work, but this is one of the ways that I think your writing can improve. Contrarian statements, even when true, can sometimes be less good than other true statements. I understand this is vague, but I hope you understand.)

That is from Ted.

Who should be shamed, and who not?

Let’s start with the distiction between people and their ideas and also their behavior.  We might condemn the ideas of a person without condeming the person himself.  Of course, if the ideas are very, very bad, sometimes we condemn the person too.

We seem to mind less when the bad ideas come from another time and space altogether.  For instance, hardly anyone seems to mind if a Mexican migrant has incorrect and deeply offensive views on the Oapan-Sam Miguel land disputes.  Those beliefs, even if they sanction violence against innocents for the purposes of land grabs, don’t impinge much on current American status competitions.  Similary, I don’t see that many objections to intellectual “monuments” erected in favor of classical Athens, in spite of the significant role of slavery in that society.  The pro-Athenian faction isn’t going to command any electoral votes the next cycle.  Was Joan of Arc problematic?

How many people object if a high percentage of the best jobs for Indian-Americans go to members of higher castes?  Does anyone push for affirmative action within the Indian-American community?  Not that I am aware of.  Those status contests aren’t salient for most of us.

I see many people who have behaved very badly — and here I mean legally convicted criminals — but where the prevailing “mood affiliation” among American liberal intellectuals is to favor their rehabilitation.  For instance, if a company does not ask job applicants if they have criminal records, this is considered to be good, and maybe it is.  For one thing, many of those criminals are the products of bad circumstances and we may have various (true) theories that help to excuse their behavior.  So we don’t go to the nth degree to shame and disgrace those ex-criminals, even if they have been convicted of prior violent activities.

How are we then to feel about contemporary neo-Nazis?  Most of them have not been convicted of anything at all.  Yet right now we are going to great lengths to shame and disgrace them.  We regard them as on a lower moral rung than the convicted criminals.  But is wishing for violence that much worse than having committed it yourself?

Or sometimes those two qualities go together.  If you are a neo-Nazi and you have committed a violent act, like the guy who drove that car into the crowd, it seems OK to put your photo on the internet in any kind of stereotypically despised, lookist, “white filth” portrayal that is possible, with maximum scorn and contempt.  Should we cover a prisoner on Death Row the same way?  What about someone who has been judged mentally ill?  What if in the meantime we simply do not know?

There may be a good utilitarian reason for the distinctions we draw, namely that we wish to discourage neo-Nazi behavior, and the behavior of potential copycats, for future-oriented reasons.   (Is that shaming even the most effective way to do so?  We don’t seem to obsess over shame threats for convicted criminals, to keep them — and others — on “the right track.”).  Perhaps shaming and disgracing them is necessary because they hold very bad ideologies, and perhaps potentially contagious ideologies, ideologies that most violent criminals do not seem to promulgate.

Maybe this utilitarian view is correct, namely that the shaming of an individual should depend on social context and political impact, and not just on the prior behavior of that individual.  But then notice what we are doing, we are moving away from moral individualism ourselves, and treating the shamed person as a means in the Kantian sense.  I even feel that such shaming makes me a slight bit like them, in a way I wish to avoid.

Do I have the option of just feeling sorry for the neo-Nazis, and at the same time dreading their possible social impact, in the way one might dread and hate a tornado?  But not shaming or scolding them?

Or should I feel bad about benefiting from the shaming activities of others, and being a kind of free-riding Kantian moral purist?

What if deterrence is not your actual goal with the shaming, but rather you are shaming for the purposes of motivating your own “troops”?

Another group being shamed over the course of the last week has been the misogynistic EJMR posters.  But I am curious as to the implicit theories held by the shamers here.  Why do those men write such nasty things?  Is it all just bad socialization, or might some of them them have a genetic inclination toward such behavior?  But once we consider the latter, we seem dangerously into the kind of stereotyping we were objecting to just a moment ago, when we sought to shame them.

What if sexual bullying lies deep in male DNA?  Not for everyone of course, but for some people.  And those same people may well have grown up in disadvantageous circumstances, surrounded by the wrong kinds of nerds, and then they ended up sad and broken on EJMR, for lack of having had the right role models.

Overall I am not impressed by how most of you are writing and thinking about these issues.  I wish to shame you a bit.  Everyone wishes to shame someone.  For me it’s you — sorry!

Monday assorted links

1. City dwellers are clueless about the suburbs (NYT).  But they are happy if their kids can continue to slack off.

2. Organic building blocks on Saturn’s moon Titan?

3. The elderly have higher income than we thought: “…the discrepancy is mainly attributable to underreporting of retirement income from defined benefit pensions and retirement account withdrawals.”

4. One of the worst movie reviews I have ever read (of Dunkirk) and a prime example of mood affiliation.

5. “But the darkened hall is dotted with infra-red cameras to monitor theater-going couples.

6. More on the China-India conflict.

Various New York Times columns, with reference to Stephens and Douthat

I few of you asked me about the Bret Stephens column.  I would have preferred something more specific and detailed on climate change uncertainty, but my main reaction was encapsulated by Chris Blattman on Twitter:

Bad sign for science if my impulsive thought is “so glad I don’t work in this area”

And yes, I blame both sides for that.

A related question is: how good is the social science in this area?  I would say “not so great.”  Try looking for good public choice treatments of how climate intentions end up translated into climate policy.  That is a remarkably important question, and yet it is understood poorly.

Or “how many of the people who make proclamations in this area have a decent understanding of Chinese energy and climate policy?”, and the answer is hardly any, even though that may be the most important topic in the area.  And I ask that question not only of the casual tweeters but also of the academics who work on climate change.  Follow Christopher Balding if you don’t believe me, and by the way praise to the highly rated but still underrated Matt Kahn.

In other words, yes we should do something but still yap less, study more.

How about Ross Douthat on Marine Le Pen?

The way I see it, the case for Le Pen is simply that it might force the (supposed) outsiders to “own” the euro and European Union, and that might be better for liberalism in the long run than having a France limp along under the probably not so popular Macron.  In my view, Le Pen has neither the means nor the inclination to actually pull France out of the EU or eurozone, and the whole thing has been a campaign stunt.  Of course I find it hard to estimate the probabilities here, and personally I reserve my political “rooting” for my classical liberal mood affiliations and also the Washington Wizards; I won’t support a candidate for reasons of n-dimensional chess, given that I am never the decisive voice.  So I’m not rooting for Le Pen, but if someone holds that “strategic” point of view I do think it is defensible, though I hope they are holding it with plenty of humility on the epistemic side.

I thought Ross’s column had the desired and necessary caveats, and furthermore he did not tell people to vote for her or root for her.  Rather than try to smear his piece with Nazi associations and the like, it is better to focus on why so many political parties in the West are falling apart.  And as for the unsavory associations, keep in mind that oft-praised American presidents have owned slaves, exterminated native Americans, turned back ships of Holocaust victims, and napalmed Vietnam.  That doesn’t provide an excuse for bad current behavior, but it does provide some context for the “how could you possibly…?” tendencies we all have.

I would not myself have written either column, but overall I say kudos to The New York Times.  It’s their readers I worry about.

Saturday assorted links

1. Ryan Avent: “Given the structure of our social safety net, automation tends to increase poverty and inequality rather than unemployment.”  And Ryan on unemployment and video games.

2. Looking back on Norman Podhoretz (NYT).

3. Complacency and cheeseburgers.  “Cowen is optimistic in general, but not necessarily for you.”

4. Jodi Ettenberg reviews Matt Levine.

5. Why might the new Netflix rating system throw out information?

6. Meals on Wheels mood affiliation.

Saturday assorted links

1. What were the rules of library penmanship and how were they formed?

2. Vocational education leads to less labor market flexibility later in life.

3. The polity that is Belarus taxes the unemployed.

4. Me on Trump and Mexico, starts at about 28:00, also 45:00, other bits too.

5. Japanese dancehall.

6. Put aside the mood affiliation, this is a useful Chait piece on the interlocking nature of the various fiscal options facing Republicans.

Saturday assorted links

1. Did the Congo crisis just get a lot worse?

2. UBI has weak support from top economists in poll.

3. Redux link: “Fiduciary standard for financial advisors actually may increase fees and commissions.”  Maybe we don’t know but people, please don’t be a sucker for mood affiliation on this one.

4. Should you google your therapist?

5. Is Spotify in trouble?

6. Has technology ruined horror films?

7. Scott Sumner responds on Brexit and bananas.

Who wants more coal company pollution in water streams?

That is one of the news stories of the end of this week, namely that the Trump administration eliminated a previous Obama administration ruling on this, see Brad Plumer for details.  That sounds horrible, doesn’t it?

I took a look at the cost-benefit study (pointed out on Twitter by Claudia Sahm, or try this link, and please note it was prepared by consultants, not by the government itself).  I spent some time with these hundreds of pages, and they are not always easy to parse (my apologies to the authors for any misunderstandings).  Anyway, I quickly came upon this and related passages (p.45, passim):

In summary, the Final Rule is expected to reduce employment by 124 jobs on average each year due to decreased coal mined while an additional 280 jobs will be created from increased compliance activity on average each year.

Of course those “newly created jobs” are a cost, not a benefit, and should be switched to the other side of the ledger.  That is not what this study did.  And if I understand p.4-31 correctly, this study is using a multiplier of about 2.  This approach is completely wrong, and if it were right Appalachia would love a lot of this coal regulation for its job-creating proclivities, but of course the region doesn’t.

The claimed annual benefit from the changes, from the side of coal demand (not the only effects), is $78 million, fairly small potatoes.  Note the study doesn’t consider what are commonly the most significant costs of regulation, namely distracting the attention of managers and turning companies into legal and regulatory cultures rather than entrepreneurial cultures.  The study does mention uncertainty costs from regulation, although I could not find any quantification of them.

Furthermore, I am not able to scrutinize the introductory section “SUMMARY OF BENEFITS AND COSTS OF THE STREAM PROTECTION RULE” and figure out the final assessment of net benefits for the rule and where that assessment might come from.  I find that worrisome, and paging through the study did not put my mind at ease in this regard.

Now, I know how this works.  Many of you probably are thinking that we need to do whatever is possible to attack or shrink the coal industry, because of climate change.  Maybe so!  Maybe we want to stultify the coal companies, for reason of a greater global benefit.  But a) there is still a role for evaluating individual policy changes by partial equilibrium methods and reporting on those results accurately, and b) “putting down the coal companies,” as you might a budgie, is not what the law says is the proper goal of policy.

Imagine holding an attitude that places the Trump administration as the actual defenders of the rule of law!  Besides, don’t get too worked up (p.174):

Our analysis indicates that there will be no increase in stranded reserves under any of the Alternatives.

There is, however, a very small decline in annual coal production (pp.5-20, 5-21) from the rule that had been chosen.  Water quality is improved in 262 miles of streams (7-26), in case you are wondering, that’s something but hardly a major impact and that almost entirely in underpopulated parts of the country.  All the media coverage I’ve seen implies or openly states a badly exaggerated sense of total water impact, relative to this actual estimate (are you surprised?).  Returning to the study, there is also no region-specific estimate of how large (or small) those water benefits might be, at least not that I could find (again, maybe I missed it, but I did find some language suggesting that no such estimate would be provided).

Chapter seven calculates the benefits of the resulting carbon emissions, but after reading that section my best estimate for those marginal benefits is zero, not the postulated $110 million.  The “social cost of carbon” is actually an average magnitude, and it does not measure benefits from very small changes.  Again, you might think there is an imperative to consider “this policy is conjunction with numerous other anti-coal changes,” but that is not what the law stipulates as I understand it and furthermore it hardly seems that many other anti-coal regulatory changes are on the way.

If it were up to me, I would not have overturned the coal/stream regulations, and my personal inclination is indeed to fight a war on coal.  But if you look at the grounds for evaluation specified by law, and examine the cost-benefit study with even a slightly critical mindset, we don’t know what is the right answer on this individual policy decision.  The study outlines nine different regulatory alternatives and it is not able to conclude which is best, nor is the quantitative thrust of the study aimed toward that end.

Mood affiliation aside, to strike this regulation down, as the Trump administration has done, is in fact not an indefensible action.

On a more practical political level, Trump wishes to send a signal to Appalachian voters that he is looking out for coal and looking out for them.  This is actually a very weak action, and it was chosen because for procedural reasons it was quite easy to do.  The more you complain about it, the stronger it looks, and that’s probably a more important fact than any of the particular details of this study.  Whether you like it or not, the coal debate is not really one that favors the Democrats.

Addendum: Here is the CRS paper, which seems to be derivative of other work, most of all this study.

Public choice theories of the FBI

I can’t seem to find much on this topic, could it be a violation of Cowen’s Second Law?  Here is one passage from Beverly Gate from 2012 (pdf):

Hoover’s bureaucratic skills gave him remarkable control over the FBI’s internal culture and policies. And yet his strategies for achieving that autonomy were often in conflict with each other. Autonomy was not a one-time event; it required constant care and rebalancing. In Hoover’s case, the impulse to maintain the FBI’s professional, nonpartisan image was frequently at odds with efforts to exert popular political and ideological influence. Throughout his career, Hoover’s cozy relationships with congressmen and presidents constantly threatened to undermine the Bureau’s reputation as a nonpartisan agency, divorced from the spoils system and power politics. Similarly, his outspoken anticommunist crusades—a key source of FBI cultural authority—were often in tension with his description of the FBI as purely reactive investigative agency.

The simplest model has the FBI as a bit like the Fed: seeking to promote some policy goals but also jealous of its independence and autonomy.  Doing good policy work often promotes independence but not always, and the agency is not well set up to deal with instances where the two objectives conflict.  Organizations of this kind also tend to be relatively underdeveloped when it comes to skills of media management and public relations, since they are counting on results and political support to do the job for them.  In fact, if they tried to actively manage their PR well on a daily basis, they might find it hard to stay out of politics, as they would end up doing too much “day specific” posturing and not enough “general mood affiliation” posturing.

Hasn’t someone written a piece called something like “A Public Choice Theory of the FBI”?  (Bob Tollison, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you…)  Can anyone help with reading suggestions, comments of course are open.

Addendum: Here is analysis from David Warsh.

Vertical Integration, Market Foreclosure, and Consumer Welfare in the Cable Television Industry

That is the title of a 2001 AER piece by Tasneem Chipty, here is the abstract:

I examine the effects of vertical integration between programming and distribution in the cable television industry. I assess the effects of ownership structure on program offerings, prices, and subscriptions, and I compare consumer welfare across integrated and unintegrated markets. The results of this analysis suggest two general conclusions. First, integrated operators tend to exclude rival program services, suggesting that certain program services cannot gain access to the distribution networks of vertically integrated cable system operators. Second, vertical integration does not harm, and may actually benefit, consumers because of the associated efficiency gains.

Out of date, yes, but still evidence that the proposed AT&T and Time-Warner merger is unlikely to damage the interests of consumers.  When there is some market power at each step along the supply chain, vertical integration typically lowers margins and prices, thereby increasing consumer surplus.

For the pointer I thank John Chilton, who also points us to this review chapter by Paul Joskow.  Here is a good James B. Stewart (NYT) piece on how antitrust thinking is moving backward these days, away from science more toward mood affiliation.

Why we don’t have a carbon tax

From Brad Plumer at Vox:

“We have done extensive polling on a carbon tax,” Podesta apparently told Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan back in January 2015. “It all sucks.”

There is further detail at that link.  A quite remarkable David Roberts piece at Vox, worth reading in its entirety, lays out why much of “the left” opposes the carbon tax on the ballot in Washington state.  It is revenue-neutral, doesn’t produce enough social justice, and as I would say it doesn’t have the right mood affiliation, among other factors.  Economist Yoram Bauman plays a key role in the article, and here is a quotation from him:

I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.

I’m not so sure about that portrayal of the Republicans, but still that is a perspective you don’t hear enough.  (Scott Sumner comments on the piece.)  You may recall my earlier post on Republicans and Democrats:

At some level the Republicans might know the Democrats have valid substantive points, but they sooner think “Let’s first put status relations in line, then our debates might get somewhere.  In the meantime, I’m not going to cotton well to a debate designed to lower the status of the really important groups and their values.”  And so the dialogue doesn’t get very far.

To return more directly to the title of this post, why don’t we have a carbon tax?  I would put it this way: for better or worse, the American people expect their government to solve this problem without raising the price of energy.  Funny that.

Euthanasia arbitrage the moral hazard culture that is Belgian, installment #1437

No, this is not a repeat of the post from yesterday, there is another twist:

Doctors in Belgium have rejected an imprisoned murderer and rapist’s request for medically assisted suicide, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday, less than a week before he was due to receive a lethal injection.

…Van Den Bleeken, 51, and in prison for nearly 30 years, had complained of a lack of therapy provided for his condition in Belgium. He argued he had no prospect of release since he could not overcome his violent sexual impulses, and wanted to die in order to end his mental anguish.

Belgium has pioneered the legalization of euthanasia beyond terminal illness to include those suffering unbearable mental pain.

But others have received euthanasia:

Cases which attracted international attention included the euthanasia of two deaf twins who were in the process of losing their sight, and of a transgender person left in torment by an unsuccessful sex change operation.

In February, Belgium became the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children at any age, a move which drew criticism from religious groups both at home and abroad, though application for minors is limited to those about to die.

It is perhaps the wrong mood affiliation to apply the euthanasia process to an actual criminal:

Belgium, like the rest of the European Union, does not have the death penalty.

Here is the full article, and for the pointer I thank A. Le Roy.

Can War Foster Cooperation?

There is a new NBER working paper on this question by Michal Bauer, Christopher Blattman, Julie Chytilová, Joseph Henrich, Edward Miguel, Tamar Mitts:

In the past decade, nearly 20 studies have found a strong, persistent pattern in surveys and behavioral experiments from over 40 countries: individual exposure to war violence tends to increase social cooperation at the local level, including community participation and prosocial behavior. Thus while war has many negative legacies for individuals and societies, it appears to leave a positive legacy in terms of local cooperation and civic engagement. We discuss, synthesize and reanalyze the emerging body of evidence, and weigh alternative explanations. There is some indication that war violence especially enhances in-group or “parochial” norms and preferences, a finding that, if true, suggests that the rising social cohesion we document need not promote broader peace.

That is an all-star line-up of authors, and no this doesn’t mean any of those individuals are in favor of war.  That would be the fallacy of mood affiliation, and we all know that MR readers never commit the fallacy of mood affiliation…

Thursday assorted links

1. “…early-arriving first generation immigrants perform better than do second generation immigrants, and second generation immigrants perform better than third generation immigrants.

2. “…in addition to our $198 chef’s menu, we also offer a $12 burger if you’d like to kill your hunger in a single course.”

3. What/who will the future remember from rock music?  By Chuck Klosterman.

4. How cyclical is the current extension of octopi biomass?

5. Myths about Chinese debt.  And Chinese debates over the yuan, the article has real information.

6. Mood affiliation with Bernie Sanders (NYT).

Friday assorted links

1. Clinton welfare reform was not such a big deal, one way or the other.  And what it is like to be obsessed with mood affiliation.

2. Greg Ip on the popularity of big economics books.

3. “Neuromancer is a commissioned work.

4. MIE: the woman who makes prosthetic pinkies for former Yakuza members. “Usually one of Fukushima’s fingers costs 180,000 yen ($1490), but she provides ex-yakuza in difficult financial situations with a discount.”  She has made hundreds of such fingers, recommended.

5. How small is the world really?, how networked are you anyway?, and why it matters.

6. Are Chinese-American students turning to Christianity?