2019 November Links

This is a post of links to research, blogs, articles, videos, etc. on topics I find interesting. I do this because I remember things better when I use them, and then I can better integrate them into my worldview. It also creates a stock of citations I can look back on, instead of struggling forever on google while I attempt to retrieve some study I read one time but can't remember where I found it.

Here we go...

1. Robert Talisse talks about overdoing democracy. He says consumer behavior of all sorts tracks our partisan allegiances. Conservatives shop at Walmart. Liberals shop at Target. Starbucks serves liberals. Dunkin Donuts serves conservatives. Liberals feed their pets wet food. Conservatives serve their pets dry food. Liberals vacation at the beach. Conservatives go to the golf course. They even buy different alcohol. The pervasiveness of this phenomenon means we only interact with our own group.

He also says,
"It looks as if we don't have epistemic control over our own beliefs. Our beliefs shift in ways that aren't tracking reasons so much as just group identification." 
This is a really good test of rationality. As you've transitioned across different groups of people; changed jobs, moved to new communities, met new friends, transferred to new schools, etc. how much has your political views changed despite having very little exposure to new arguments?

He also points out the crucial difference between politics of today vs. the politics of 20 years ago,
"My father who was a Republican, hated Jimmy Carter, hated the Democrats, but he did not hate the guy across the street who votes for the Democrats. What we've seen over the past 2 decades is the unwillingness to cooperate and the attitude that the other side is unworthy of our trust and is incapable of citizenship, those attitudes are targeted among the rank and filed citizens, not merely the party leaders. When the negative affect is primed in that way, demogogary becomes very very simple."
2. I watched 12 Angry Men, the critically acclaimed movie from the 50s about a jury member who persuades the entire rest of the jury that a young man is not guilty of murdering his father. I was very intrigued from beginning to end. It had some notably powerful moments like the knife scene or the bathroom scene when a Jury member basically says, "suppose the kid really did knife his father and you talk us out of it?"

But but but but but. I couldn't help being bothered by the irrationality and statistical illiteracy of the main argument in the movie; that the kid on trial was the victim of a series of unlikely coincidences that made him look guilty. Any single one of these coincidences might constitute a "reasonable doubt" but not the entire set!

So, of course, I looked for other people online who may have noticed the same thing. Low and behold, the subreddit on the topic, and an article from AV Club.

3. The new intersectionality calculator suggests Barack Obama's black daughters are more oppressed than my white son. I tried to tell him to stop oppressing them, but he's five and pretends like he doesn't understand!

If this is satire, they sell it really well, leaving many commenters genuinely confused whether this is a joke. They even have a picture of individual faces being replaced with their intersectionality number, which seems very symbolic of the whole problem with the intersectionality stuff.


4. Nobody Values Your Life More Than The Federal Government. Unfortunately, when they overvalue the length of your life they end up over-paying for it with the quality of your life!

5. Public views on interracial marriage. The most striking fact for me is that African Americans are twice as likely as whites to think interracial marriage is a bad thing.

6. After talking about the progressives forming a "circular firing squad", Obama is now speaking out about cancel culture:
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly.”
 Fullymyelinated has a good post on this.

7. Related: Listen to Sam Harris express his concerns that woke culture is going to get Donald Trump elected again. I've been saying this for a long time, anti-political correctness has been a driving force for Donald Trump since the beginning. Whatever you want to call it, woke, PC Culture, SJWs, aren't popular, and Donald Trump had made sure they're the face of the left. The worst part is so many of them fire back with political correctness; dooming themselves, and proving his point.

8. Longtime Republican economist at Harvard switches his voter registration from Republican to Independent.

9. Yes, deregulation decreases poverty (Sci-Hub). Keep in mind this is mainly talking about very poor countries who had very restrictive business regulations that rich countries never had or abandoned a very long time ago. Regulation isn't a straight line going up or down, or even a curve with an optimal point halfway across. Meaningful talk about regulation/deregulation can't be had without mentioning specifically what kind of regulation are we talking about. Everybody should be for more good regulation and less bad regulation, not for/against more/less regulation.

10. Longbets.org is the site for long-term accountable predictions. After 10 years, Warren Buffet won a $2 million bet in 2017. Here's an easy win in 5 years.

11. Ted Gioia on Music as Cultural Cloud Storage
COWEN: "Let’s say you were not married, and you’re 27 years old, and you’re having a date over. What music do you put on in 2019 under those conditions?"
GIOIA: "It’s got to always be Sinatra...I would think that if you were a seducer, you would want something that was romantic on the surface but very sexualized right below that, and no one was better at these multilayered interpretations of lyrics than Frank Sinatra."
12. After I wrote, Hijabs are just another socially enforced covering, I discovered a SlateStarCodex thread discussing the exact same thing; Hijabs and Public Nudity.

I can't tell you how strange and satisfying it is to see this. A very very small percentage of people would ever identify this comparison and the vast majority of people whom this comparison is brought up to reactively reject it.

13. Think you could you immigrate to the U.S.? Think it's easy? Try the official immigration flow chart.

14.Air pollution reduces I.Q. Hat tip to Alex Tabbarok at Marginal Revolution for pointing it out.
"World Bank data indicate that 3.7 billion people, about half the world’s population, are exposed to more than 50 µg/m³ of PM2.5 on an annual basis, 5x the unit of measure for most of the findings below."
15. Read Bryan Caplan's slides on the Economics of Discrimination

16. Racist is a tough little word, writes John Mcwhorter

17. A lot of economic research shows financial incentives are weak, but if raising taxes on the rich won't affect their behavior very much, doesn't that also mean that closing tax loopholes also won't affect their behavior very much?

Read Scott Alexander and Bryan Caplan on this point.

18. This paper says that when you take into account the large number of field deaths, plant-based agriculture may kill more animals than the farming of large herbivores. This paper says that's wrong because the former paper neglected to take into account land use. I love the heterodoxy of the first paper, but now I'm very undecided.

18. Thing of the month:

Venkatesh Rao talks about Waldenponding, which is a term that describes various levels of retreating from technology akin to how Thoreau extolled the virtues of retreating from social contact and leading a quieter life at Walden Pond. This episode would probably go on one of my top 10 econtalk episodes of all time.
"We remember the interactions that are lovely and wonderful face-to-face interactions, but we kind of block out of our memories the ones that are not. And I remember growing up, so many damn boring visits to my parents' friends, ceremonial culture of norms. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. We used to live in a culture of norms where there was an expectation of sort of polite participation in vast hours, countless hours of like really boring, tedious face time. And I hated it."
"So somebody who is, like, snubbing you with a phone at dinner. So you're at dinner and apparently you're boring your dinner partner. So that person pulls out their phone and starts checking email at the slightest interruption. Right? So that's phone snubbing, or phubbing, as he calls it. But look at what that signifies. It tells you that you're in a fundamentally boring conversation you don't want to be in."
Also, read the original post on Waldenponding and it's sequel.

19. The testimonies of lifelong Democrats who voted for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump. I don't think any of these people have very enlightened points of view, but I think it is fairly representative of what average people think.

20. Tired of being dismissed as millennial snowflakes, "OK Boomer" is now a common expression used to reactively dismiss baby boomers. Regardless of your age, grown-ups understand that referring to someone's identity is not a valid way of assessing claims.

21. Is the U.S. better off a bunch of separate countries? This is from FiveThirtyEight's political confessionals; opinions you're afraid to share with friends.

I think it makes very little sense for Alabamans to be governed by the leader Californians voted for, and vice versa.

For other political opinions you're afraid to share with friends, how about, "the social contract is a myth."

22. The Economist is probably not made of 50% women, so their data doesn't count.

23. People with aphantasia, the inability to call up mental images, might be naturally resilient to post-traumatic stress disorder (study here)





25. Inoculation from Smallpox was achieved in some places for hundreds of years before it became widespread. Why did it take so long for other places to adopt? Answer: The idea of progress, secularism/humanism, communication, science, capitalism, the moment of progress.

This reminds me of my problems with pure cultural relativism.

26. How do alt-right-associated web communities depict Jordan Peterson's work?
"Our analysis generated a “two-hop-ego network” of the “#JordanPeterson” hashtag, allowing us to rapidly identify the terms and concepts most closely associated with the tag. Our analysis shows (see Figure 1) that the hashtag commonly appears in the contexts of misogynist tropes (purple), including “feminazi” and the “feminismiscancer” hashtag. It also associates closely with white nationalist tropes (yellow) including anti-immigrant rejoinders and the ‘white genocide‘ conspiracy. 
While Peterson himself does not espouse these views, this analysis suggests that his material is digestible in that light and is distributed as such by a portion of people sympathetic to those ideas on the Web. Rather than “rescuing” people from misogyny and white supremacy in these communities, Jordan Peterson seems to be held up repeatedly by such communities in precisely their most misogynistic and white supremacist contexts." 
27. Michael Huemer does a thorough job pointing out how government makes American healthcare so expensive and worse. He does not mention any theoretical market failures that any health economist might site (watch this video for fair representation of both sides of the debate)

28. An Obama administration report gives a good overview of economic research on occupational licensing. The death sentence quote:
"With the caveats that the literature focuses on specific examples and that quality is difficult to measure, most research does not find that licensing improves quality or public health and safety."
also,
"Quality can be defined in many ways and is often difficult to measure, but the evidence on licensing’s effects on prices is unequivocal: many studies find that more restrictive licensing laws lead to higher prices for consumers."
Also, this graph:
One of their recommendations is a shift towards certification. Which would bestow a legal title to those who have completed some set of training, but wouldn't restrict others without the title from performing the same duties.

It reminds me of an economist survey on whether we should loosen health care licensing. While a fair amount were uncertain, almost no economist disagreed.

29. I have a post forthcoming that criticizes the "laws only stop legal abortion" argument. To add, this kind of argument undermines other pro-choice arguments like the "abortion reduces crime" argument. If people are getting abortions regardless of legality, then it doesn't make sense that legalizing abortion would prevent unwanted children from becoming criminals.

It occurs to me that I'm stomping on ants with these kinds of arguments. Does any serious person really think abortion laws only stop legal abortion? On the other hand, the world is covered in vapid arguments, and aren't we doing a service by rebutting them? This is no steelman. But it certainly isn't a strawman either.

Forgive the pretentiousness, but a part of me thinks the smarter idea people should spend less time fighting with each other and spend more time ripping apart the obviously dumb stuff that are so popular with communities on both sides of any debate.

30. Large genetic effect on whether one has health insurance.

"Nearly one third of the genetic variation in being uninsured versus having private coverage is explained by employment industry, self-employment status, and income, and together with education, they explain over 40% of the genetic influence. Marital status, number of children, and available measures of health status, risk preferences, and prevention effort do not appear to be important channels for genetic effects."
31. I've heard of the market failure Adverse Selection. What is Advantageous Selection?

32. Sociologist Susan Mayer says giving money to poor families has little effect on child outcomes. Instead, she emphasizes more behavioral correlates with low-income kids; like parents not reading to them, or being absent from school.

Genes are not mentioned in the conversation once. She even mentions how all parents say they should read to their kids every day, but some do and some don't. Isn't there a simple argument that says, the parents who read to their children even when they don't want to are more conscientious than parents who don't - conscientiousness is heritable - so it's not the reading but the inherited conscientiousness that's influencing the outcomes?

This is so not rocket science and our inability to talk about this is not good for research or good for children. Genes are easy to ignore but hard to deny.

33. Study from the University of Toronto finds rising death rates of whites is caused my misperceived threat to their dominance social status.

How do they measure perceived threat?
"We also conducted a county-level fixed effects model to determine whether changes in the Republican share of voters during presidential elections, as a marker of growing perceptions of social status threat, was associated with changes in working-age white mortality from 2000 to 2016, adjusting for demographic and economic covariates."
I see the "people voted for Trump because whites are threatened of changing racial demographics" is no longer even a hypothesis to be considered. It's asserted as ground truth now. I hate it when partisanship effects science.

34. Everything's Awesome and Nobody's Happy: Everything's on sale compared to 1971.

"Psychological studies have found that on average, women cry two to five times a month, or three to five times more often than men, according to research reported by psychologists Ivan Nyklicek, Lydia Temoshok and Ad Vingerhoets, all of Tilburg University in the Netherlands"
"Overall, men and women cry over the same things, like the death of a loved one, romantic breakups and homesickness. Women may cry more over smaller events, like a fight or computer crash, but, "Remarkably, men cry relatively more often in reaction to positive events," Vingerhoets told LiveScience in an email."
I haven't cried in 10 years. I'd give a solid 10% chance that I will not cry again for the rest of my life.

36. What does everyone in your field know but nobody in your industry talks about because it would lead to general chaos?

Intriguing answers:

"Most advertising is done without any real understanding of the impacts it has, how and why it works, or if it works at all."

"There is no recycling program, industrial or municipal, that can ever repair the damage done to the environment by consumerism. 99.999 percent of what you throw out stays thrown out."

"Jesus taught unequivocally that it’s bad to be rich."

Several answers were along these lines:

"Nobody can define a species"

37. Paper tries to explain why same-sex sexual behavior has been recorded in 1,500 animal species despite homosexuality having the fitness cost identical to castration.

The paper does not parse between same-sex sexual behavior, and exclusively same-sex sexual behavior that we see (almost?) exclusively in humans. The former has no fitness cost, the latter has tremendous fitness cost. Bisexuality that we see in animals isn't an evolutionary puzzle. Homosexuality is. The author does not seem to understand that.

I have crossed paths with two solutions, and I'm sure there are more.

1) The gay uncle solution. Relatives can still promote their genes even if they have no offspring of their own via playing a parental role to a nephew or niece. 

2) A tad of gay holds sway solution. Genes do more than one thing. Gay genes have alternative fitness advantages, but when enough of them are combined in the right way, it leads to homosexuality and a significant drop in fitness.

Hail Satan: the less genes contribute to homosexuality, the less this is a paradox. If we admit that there's an environmental component to homosexuality, the less is needed to explain homosexuality's inverse relationship to fitness. 
"imagine that the gentrifiers, instead of being white, were high-skilled immigrants from India. The economic effects of gentrification would be identical: rising rents for more-educated original residents, rising property values for all, minimal displacement, and so on. The cultural shock would be different in kind but identical in degree: instead of artisan coffee shops flooding Harlem, you might see, for example, Indian grocery stores. 
In this scenario, can you imagine college students at elite universities railing against gentrification day in and day out? Can you imagine prominent Democrats making opposition to gentrification a pillar of their housing policy? Perhaps. But it is far more likely that if the skin color of the gentrifiers were to change, as if by magic, most of the outrage over gentrification would disappear."
38. Study (Sci-Hub): Among children who have high GPS (genome‐wide polygenic scores) and high SES (Socio-economic status), 77% go to University. Among children with low GPS and SES, 21% go to University.
"High GPS partially compensates for the disadvantages of children from low-SES families, increasing their chances of going to university from 21% to 47%."
39. I've paid a lot of attention to Jonathan Haidt since I first heard him 6 years ago. This new interview with him is excellent. The interviewer is excellent and adds a lot to Haid's points, as well as motivates Haidt to say things I haven't heard him say before.

Also, watch this civil disagreement between Jonathan Haidt and Jeffrey Sachs.

40. Robert Wright and Paul Bloom talk about the disadvantages of empathy and the advantages of dehumanization.

My favorite posts of this month:
Hijabs are just another socially enforced covering

Posts I'd like to write next month:
- More on abortion
-The economic consensus on Free Trade
-New Year's Predictions
-Actual minority views vs. what you think minority views should be

New Month's Resolutions for November:
-Go to the gym 8 times Success! I went to the gym exactly 8 times
-Weigh-in 20 times Failed. I only weighed in 12 times
-Weigh in < 166 lbs Success! November 4th I weighed in at 170. November 30th I weighed in at 164.8

New Month's Resolutions for December:
-Watch 8 critically acclaimed movies
-Weigh-in 20 times

...

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