2020 March Links





1. Is Bernie Sanders a socialist? 

I gave him the benefit of the doubt until I found out he used to be a socialist by the old-school definition. I can't find any reason he has reformed. None of the arguments I hear from him logically end at any version of a mixed economy.

2. Agnes Collards reviews Tyler Cowen's Stubborn Attachments

3. Please Remember this Day,
"Pay attention to how hard you're preaching your political gospel today.
Observe how you have no fear of sounding preachy or pushy when you tell people it’s their responsibility to get out and vote.
What does that tell you?"
4. Conflict Vs. Mistake is a classic from Scott Alexander.
"Mistake theorists treat politics as science, engineering, or medicine. The State is diseased. We’re all doctors, standing around arguing over the best diagnosis and cure. Some of us have good ideas, others have bad ideas that wouldn’t help, or that would cause too many side effects. 
Conflict theorists treat politics as war. Different blocs with different interests are forever fighting to determine whether the State exists to enrich the Elites or to help the People."
5.  This tweet recently reached the "legendary" status after some people on a political talk show cited it as some kind of insightful view rather than mathematical junk.

Since the math actually works out to only just over $1 a person, is it evidence for the opposite conclusion?

This is not about math education it's about human psychology. They wouldn't have made this mistake if it didn't confirm their views. Humans don't check their work when the evidence confirms what they already know.

6. Social scientists are always ragging on economic inequality; claiming it increases demand for redistribution and promotes class conflict.

Most such arguments crucially assume that ordinary people know how high inequality is, how it has been changing, and where they fit in the income distribution. Using a variety of large, cross-national surveys, we show that, in recent years, ordinary people have had little idea about such things. What they think they know is often wrong. Widespread ignorance and misperceptions emerge robustly, regardless of data source, operationalization, and measurement method. Moreover, perceived inequality—not the actual level—correlates strongly with demand for redistribution and reported conflict between rich and poor. We suggest that most theories about political effects of inequality need to be reframed as theories about effects of perceived inequality.
People's perceptions of the economy, inequality, and stability have little to do with reality. People live small lives, and don't actually know very much about widespread statistical social changes, they can't possibly be reacting to it.

7. Did you know that Donald Trump doesn't drink? It has to do with his older brother who apparently died from an alcohol-related accident.

8. Oh good, attitudes toward abortion have become more polarized over time. I'm so glad people are thinking more in terms of black and white.

More people support abortion in either all or no situations. Since the truth is somewhere in between, I'm going to take this as a bad thing.

9. 18 health myths that are outdated and need to die. Some of the "myths" are only myths if they're treated like universals. For example, "exercising at night ruins your sleep" is "not always true." Or, "you must drink 64 oz of water every day" is not exact because everyone has different hydration needs. Yeah, sure, but who ever thought 64 oz was the perfect number for everybody ever?!!

10. What women (say they) want:


This would be a good time to review revealed preference.

10. Thing of the Week: Our World in Data's page on Coronavirus. Here they try to answer the unanswerable question: how likely is it to die from Covid-19?

11. Is Corona as deadly as they say?

12. A summary of The Imperial College report of COVID-19 says if we do nothing 80% of Americans will get it and .9% of them will die = 2.2 million deaths plus 1.8 million more die from lack of ventilators. It says with a "mitigation strategy" (social distancing for all over 70 and quarantining all those with symptoms) we'll still see half as many deaths. Finally, a "suppression strategy" (everyone social distancing, all public places shut down) would work with overwhelming results - a few thousand dead, but if we ever relax suppression before a vaccine comes out (12-18 months), Corona will be back with a vengeance.

13. Having older brothers increase your probability of being gay. Three older brothers nearly doubles your chance of being gay. Sociological explanations seem unlikely as,  "older biological brothers raised apart still affect the odds of the proband being gay, while older step-brothers living in the same home appear to have no effect"

14. Donald Trump presides over the "biggest stock market rise in history"


Points for optimism

15. The pessimistic Coronavirus podcast with Sam Harris
The optimistic Coronavirus podcast with Sam Harris
Glenn Loury and John Mcwhorter talk Coronavirus and Trump
Glenn Loury talks with a Coronavirus dissenter
I'm not sure how seriously to take Reason's interview with Richard Epstein, but at the very least debunking him is good intellectual practice. He's saying 50% chance there will be less than 50,000 deaths. Here's the written version of Epstein's arguments.

Robin Hanson says Epstein is crazy wrong.

16. Do travel bans work? Evidence from the Harvard Public Health Review says no.

This paper in the Journal of Emergency Management says only in the very short term.

The World Health Organization, "continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks."

Both of Sam Harris' guests, Amesh Adalja and Nicholas Christakis say no.

An epidemiologist at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public health says, “Unfortunately, travel bans sound good, but we’re way past the point where simply restricting travel is a reasonable response.”

A senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security says, “Border closures have not stopped the spread of this virus or prevented it from becoming a pandemic... Now that we have local transmission within the United States, looking outward to control the virus makes even less sense.”

A former member of the Pandemic Response team says, "There’s little value to European travel restrictions."

I can't find much evidence going the other way, but at least aren't airports places where large numbers of people gather? The same is true for domestic flights, but can't that contradiction be resolved by banning domestic flights too?

17. Both Democrats and Republicans overestimate how prejudiced Americans are (The Economist).


The least electable groups are socialist and atheist.

During the Democratic Primaries, was a lot more talk about whether a woman (Elizabeth Warren) was electable, and much less talk about whether a socialist (Bernie Sanders) was electable.

About 23% say they wouldn't vote for a gay candidate. I think this would have produced a substantial challenge for Pete Buttigieg.

This chart largely fits my view of the world. Everyone I talk to seems to think everyone else is more prejudiced than themselves. 

Since this fits my view of the world so well, let me exercise some skepticism: this is who people say they would vote for. Of course when people are asked, "are you racist?" "are you sexist?" they say no.



But maybe he's right.





Age 0-9: 0.0094% 
Age 10-19: 0.022% 
Age 20-29: 0.091% 
Age 30-39: 0.18% 
Age 40-49: 0.4% 
Age 50-59: 1.3% 
Age 60-69: 4.6% (range 3.8-5.4) 
Age 70-79: 9.8% (range 8.2-12) 
Age 80+: 18% (range 14-22)

Considering The Price of Life, the fact that Coronavirus targets the elderly is good relative to an equal distribution of fatalities (hail satan)

24. Robin Hanson's list of common useless objections. You'll go crazy for number 6!


26. Republicans embrace capitalism and reject socialism. Democrats are much more mixed on the issue. Keep in mind that these two groups mean two very different things when they say, "socialism"

27. Coronavirus: best case vs. worst case scenarios. I hear a lot about overreacting and underreacting, I think more in terms of kinds of reactions and whether each pass a cost-benefit analysis.

"Support for universal sex differences in preferences remains robust: Men, more than women, prefer attractive, young mates, and women, more than men, prefer older mates with financial prospects. Cross-culturally, both sexes have mates closer to their own ages as gender equality increases. Beyond age of partner, neither pathogen prevalence nor gender equality robustly predicted sex differences or preferences across countries."
"The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable...We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300."
Here is a rebuttal, which doesn't dispute that we're missing a lot of data, but that in light of our ignorance we're still doing the right thing.

"men may experience more regret over romantic or sexual omission (missed opportunities), whereas women may experience more regret over romantic or sexual commission (regretting past decisions)"
"Consistent with EMT, parental investment theory, and sexual strategies theory, men were more likely to post missed connections (sexual or romantic omission regret), whereas women were more likely to post in FML’s love and intimacy sections (sexual or romantic commission regret)"
31. Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts talk Coronavirus and from Tyler: Coronavirus Killed the Progressive Left.

This reminds me of the Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum. When we're in survival mode, the right wins.

32. From FiveThirtyEight: Is One Generation Taking The Coronavirus Less Seriously Than Others? Not Really.
"Almost half of baby boomers (ages 55-73) and members of the silent generation (age 73 and up) said they had canceled plans to avoid crowds, as did 54 percent of millennials and Generation Z (ages 18 to 38), according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted March 13-14.5 
And in a YouGov poll conducted Tuesday, while the youngest age group was less likely to say they were avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet from others when possible, other age groups all said they were adopting social distancing practices at similar rates. About two-thirds of 18-to-24-year-olds said they were doing so, while the other age groups ranged from 73 percent (among respondents 25-34 and 35-44) to 79 percent (among those older than 55). 
Finally, 45 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were now less likely to go to restaurants or cafes, per a Morning Consult poll conducted March 13-16. Among those 65 years and older, 49 percent said the same."
33. This study looked at 2 million 911 calls and found white and black officers used force at similar rates in white and racially mixed neighborhoods, but white officers were 5 times more likely to use a gun in predominantly black neighborhoods.

34. How widely cited data about Spanish Flu got so screwed up

35. Video from 2014 warns about bats and Coronavirus

36. Rand Paul has Coronavirus

37. What made you leave the left?

38. Large replication shows Ovulatory Shift Hypothesis - the idea that women's sexual preferences changes with where they are in their ovulation cycle - isn't borne out by the evidence.

39. Coleman Hughes on the Psychology Podcast. I like the podcast and I like Coleman, so I'm happy to see them come together.

40. Paper says Jonathan Haidt and Moral Foundations Theory is wrong - Ideology comes first moral intuitions come second (sci-hub). In other words, we make up good-sounding moral arguments to justify our ideology (and defend out tribes).

I suspect MFT catches 2 moral foundations for liberals and 5 for conservatives because researchers are worse at testing for liberal purity, authority, and loyalty. As Bryan Caplan wrote once upon a time:
"How hard did you try to include items about Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity that would specifically appeal to liberals? Examples that occur to me: 
Ingroup/Loyalty: How much would somone have to pay you to vote Republican in an election if you knew the Democrats would win for sure? To cross a picket line? 
Authority/Respect: How much would someone have to pay you to privately ask Clinton embarrassing questions about the Lewinsky affair? To dance on Martin Luther King’s grave when no one was looking? 
Purity/Sanctity: How much would someone have to pay you to throw one McDonald’s cup out of your car window in Yosemite? To scream racial epithets in a sound-proof room?"
For more good criticisms of Haidt, also read 9 criticisms of Moral Foundations Theory

41. Female share of bachelor's degrees:


42. A short letter to the misunderstanding right: don't blame Critical Social Justice on liberals

43. Three weeks ago the head of the Who estimated the death rate of Coronavirus to be 3.4%. This was wrong. It now looks like below 1%. Since Coronavirus is 1/4 as deadly as we thought it was, how should we adjust how much we should be willing to give up to reduce it's spread?

44. Superforecasters predict Coronavirus cases/deaths worldwide/America for the next year.



Overall I see this as vindicating my optimism. 25% say no more than 35,000 deaths! That really is comparable to the flu!

Worldwide there's a very good chance we'll escape the year with between a bad and really bad result (100,000 - a few million deaths).

45. Data from Bryan Caplan
"Americans 85+ experience almost over 40% of all combined flu/pneumonia mortality, while Americans under 45 years old endure less than 2%. The main reason we rarely hear about flu deaths is that when people die of flu, folks at the funeral probably call “old age” the cause of death."
46. Iceland randomly tested nearly 10,000 people for Coronavirus and came up with about a 1% infection rate. This is bad news for containment, but good news for death rate.

47. We need tests that check for the virus, but we also need tests that check for antibodies to the virus.  This is important because presumably, those with antibodies should be able to go back to work immediately.

Supposedly, this test checks for Corona antibodies, it only takes 15 minutes, and 500,000 of them will be rolled out in Australia next week.

48. This health policy adviser says we still (only?) have 3-4 weeks until the virus peaks, and to expect normalcy around June.

49. More evidence that poor childhoods predict bad adult outcomes. It doesn't mention genetics once.

50. Speaking of genetics, here's a twin study that shows genetic differences in liking different kinds of potato chips. Identical twins like more of the same kinds of potato chips than fraternal twins.

51. Masks reduce the spread of Covid-19 says 34 scientific papers.

52. Why Bryan Caplan rejects the Thrive/Survive theory of the political spectrum


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