Monday, October 31, 2011

My comments on a recent Prof DeLong Post (partially done)

My comments on a recent Prof DeLong Post (partially done)

Prof DeLong: A Note: Prolegomenon to Any Useful Discussion of Modern American Finance

HA: I have no idea what a Prolegomenon is, but it sounds to me like "something to understand before any useful discussion ...".

Prof DeLong: In a standard economic transaction, it is no mystery where the value to both sides comes from. When I buy a double espresso from Café Nefeli for $2.25, the coffee is more valuabe to me then $2.25 is. Were I to consider only the experience and not worry about fairness consideration--that is, if I did not worry about thinking that I was turning into a chump--I would pay $5.00 for a double espresso (if Café Nefeli were the only possible place I could get one and if that is what they charged) and count myself happy. And sometimes $10.00.

HA: OK, if you say so. Brings to mind addiction theory. If a standard economic transaction is defined by the central tendency, I don't know if it's true that there's "no mystery" where the value to both sides come from. But I feel like I'm quibbling.

Prof DeLong: Similarly, for Café Nefeli the beans, the water, the grinding, the serving, the financing, and the rent, fully amortized, add up no more than $1.50 a cup. Any price between $1.50 and $5.00 a cup (and sometimes $10.00!) leaves both of us better off and happier--them with more generalized purchasing power, and me with caffeine coursing through my arteries.

HA: I don't know what "amortized" means. I don't know what the fuck "happier" means -that's a bit neurochemical (I thank Carl Shulman for helping that epiphay stick in a comment discussion in my old typepad blog) but I have a general hazy intuition that yes, trade can make all parties better off and money can help it happen more efficiently.

Prof DeLong: Financial transactions, however, are different. In normal economic life we are trading commodities we personally value less for commodities we personally value more, we are trading away generalized purchasing power--money--for commodities we value highly, or we are trading away commodities we value little for generalized purchasing power--money--we value more. The sources of the gains from trade are obvious.

HA: papers over information asymmetry, irrational agents, market manipulation, perhaps, but I don't think of Prof. DeLong as hide the ball type with regards to stuff like that. I'm probably niggling again.

Prof. DeLong: But in finance neither side is getting useful commodities. Instead, both sides are trading away claims to a pile of money and getting claims to a different pile of money in return. So how is it that me selling this pile of cash I have to you for that pile of cash that you currently own can be a good idea for both of us? Doesn't one of the piles have to be bigger? And isn't the person who trades the bigger for the smaller pile losing?

HA: hmm, I don't know, but reminds me of the claim I recently read in a Tom Friedman article that Citibank unloaded mortgage backed securities it knew were junk to (shadow bank?) clients like hedge funds.

Prof. DeLong: Almost, but not quite.

There are three ways in which a financial transaction can be a good deal for both sides.

HA: Awesome, looks like I'm about to learn something.

Prof. DeLong: First, people have different time preferences: I have money now that I do not want to spend on some useful commodity until sometime in the future, while you may have no money now and need some but anticipate being flush in the future; then we both benefit if I lend you the money--at interest. Second, risks distributed and diversified are risks dissipated, and so even though the average customer pays money into the insurance system insurance is still a valuable thing to buy because the insurance company pays you when you really need the cash. Third, economies work best when benefits and losses run with decsion-making: those whose actions create or destroy value pay attention when they have "skin in the game", and financial transactions are a good way to make sure they have that "skin in the game".

HA: Okay, I get reason one as differing logistical needs for (liquid) money. Reason 2 as agents all rationally value diversification (but is optimized risk diversification at the agent level optimal as a coordination for the class of agents as a whole? I'd guess no, that the optimum is somewhere in between the spectrum of optimized diversification for system only (defined as the system that algorithmically attempts to maximize the survival of its agent population) and optimized diversification for every agent in the system.

I'm out of time to continue this analysis/dialogue. I hope to finish it at the next opportunity.

Model taxes and "credit" markets on the negative externalities of exercised speech

I don't see much discussion of this anywhere, although it seems to me to be a fairly obvious concern. The costs on exercised (and often commercial) speech against expert-determined best policy seems to me to cost the world trillions of dollars. Also, I'd like to see a model public policy of retroactive accounting in this area, including not just fines and taxes but payouts and tax credits.

OWS largely virtuous in shifting national debate from austerity, snarks against good policy cost us trillions over the years?

Prof. Tabarrok posts a snarky bit about OWS kitchen staff frustration with homeless and felon moochers on free OWS food:

This is my reply in the comments (in case it doesn't post):

It seems to me the OWS crew helped shift national attention from austerity to stimulus (grounded in infrastructure-building job creation/retention). Seems pretty virtuous to me. They're into organic food freely shared but have limited tolerance for the lumpenproletariate- what do you expect, they're fairly good-natured white people, not some post-singularity FAI.

The impulse to chortle at their imperfection seems to me like the type of hedonistic expenditure, race to the bottom, social decision that may have cost us trillions over the years when knowledge of better public policy outpaced ability to overcome wicked coordination problems.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My latest comment to Half Sigma (GW is real, AGW is real, I trust the experts)

I wrote this in response to a comment by The Undiscovered Jew".

"The Undiscovered Jew-

I'm not an expert, I read your link, and I'm not convinced. It might be a story you like, but that ain't bayesian. I'll wait for the consensus of the relevant experts to shift before I shift my intuition on this topic (which is that GW is real, and that AGW is real and significant).

Sorry Michael Crichton & friends"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I posted this comment to Prof. Gelman's blog today

Prof. Gelman,
I was just being snarky because of the awesomely cyberpunk/tech-noir aesthetic match of this type of language:

"The Human and Social Dynamics group is devoted to understanding the interplay between individual-level behavior (e.g. how people make decisions about what music they like, which dates to go on, or which groups to join) and the social environment in which individual behavior necessarily plays itself out. In particular, we are interested in:

* Structure and evolution of social groups and networks
* Decision making, social influence, diffusion, and collective decisions"

Of course it would be a cool job, but working on direct mind control technology would be even cooler.

The Left is more technocratic, but here are some flaws in the Left these days

Krugman complained today that the Right has multi-pronged, incoherent attacks on the concepts of Climate Change and excess inequality in the US these days. I posted my reply in his comments:

The Left has a similar problem with regards to inequal human ability distribution with regards to race and gender, the negative externalities of portraying risky sex and violence in public entertainment, a fair cost-benefit appraisal of police work --I'd write a longer list but I'll concede the Left is much more technocratically virtuous than the Right these days.

Yglesias posts about the Euro, but acts like Optimum Currency Area Theory doesn't exist

Like commenter TJ Lynn points out in the comments, Mr. Yglesias in this post seems to act like Optimum Currency Area doesn't exist. I'm partial to the idea that currencies should try to match regions that cycle economically together, and that there should be some healthy directed experimentation to flesh out what we don't know yet with regards to currency optimization.

Chancellor Cigarroa: Good future Governor and President?

I could see Chancellor Cigarroa as a future Governor of Texas and President of the United States. He's young enough and is building the right type of administrative resume. I like Presidents of major public research universities as sources of gubenatorial candidates and as future Presidents.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yglesias breaks in a virtuous direction with his measured post on cops

I like Mr. Yglesias' post of cops here, and I think he gets it pretty much right. I think he give liberals too much credit by claiming they have a virtuous desire with regards to cops, BUT I read it as kind of a push narrative to try to box liberals into a virtuous direction.

There aren't a lot of champions for "Internal Affairs" -they're generally the villians (even when they're the "good guys" they're not set up to be the fan favorites) in entertainment, so I can't hate on Mr. Yglesias in his attempt to label them natural agents of a neoliberal agenda.

It's smart and virtuous for Mr. Yglesias to link study of police reform to study of education reform -although I'm a bit turned around by good arguments from his comment section that US education already performs really good by global standards, and so it may be rather wasteful to overfocuse on "educational reform" relative to more "real" and low-hanging American deficiencies. I don't know if the same or true or not regarding a comprehensive look at policing in the US.

But overall, a comprehensive look at police is legitimately macrosocial, and hence likely defensible as an object of regular attention, in contrast to something like the death penalty, which effects a tiny percentage of Americans and people in the world and yet attracts mindshare for non-technocratic reasons, it seems to me.

Vox is fantastic (thank you Prof. Krugman)

Vox is a great coordinated collection of blogs (and an ebook).

I found out about it from Prof. Krugman's blog. Interestingly, it seems to host some intelligent divergent opinions from him on the topic of Iceland's economic policy (more posts there seem critical of Iceland, whereas he seems to support their policy).

Yu Yongding, and Li Daokui, you recognize these names?

Yu Yongding, and Li Daokui, you recognize these names? As far as I can tell, they are 1 in a billion minds, two of the best macroeconomists in China. I'm surprised I never read Prof. DeLong, Prof. Krugman, or other prolific blogging American macroeconomists mentioning their names or discussing their ideas.

This would be a great headline "USA masses ask smart people to fix everything"

From the Onion, I got this from one of mtravers twitter followers:,26450/

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Left-Technocratic Sin: Disproportionate focus on "Police Brutality"?

I noticed that Prof. Cornell West, like many professionally black professors, discusses police through a skewed lense valorating blacks who are policed and presenting a skewed critique of police. For example in his March on Harlem on "police brutality", which I think non-heroically muddied a more virtuous message coming from OWS which was shifting national debate from deficit reduction to countercyclical stimulus spending on job creation and middle class debt forgiveness. But since I see Prof. West as more part of a rentier class (which includes people -many people- on the right in informal coordination with him) it doesn't disappoint me as much as seeing Prof. DeLong doing the same thing here:

I think police are part of a class of yeoman technocrats, like emergency responders, teachers, construction workers, truck drivers, and computer programmers. Our society is built on their competent fraction (hopefully a very strong majority!) doing an efficient, reliable job. Aspirationally, there's an artisan element to how everyone does their job, from yeoman technocrat to macrosocial, macroeconomic administrator.

But there seems to me to be a class of left-elites and libertarian-elites, which includes left-technocrats, that treat police as rivals in status coalitions rather than as yet another phenomena to look at through a good faith, empirically grounded, social epistemological lense. When it's comfy professor vs. more working class police officers, there's an added gaucheness to the hijacking of social epistemology that Prof. DeLong to his credit usually avoids in other areas.

Police brutality is a problem. But it's a problem that needs to be rationally ranked and sorted along with all other social problems, including housing finance, job creation, climate change management, infrastructure, etc.

And what police do well should be viewed in the same good faith as what community organizers, teachers, and public research university professors do well, for example. If one is going to aspire to be a left-technocrat rather than a leftist coalition status competition partner, then one is going to have to do better than Prof. DeLong does here, it seems to me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where is the discussion of Global Population Distribution Optimization?

Here's an interesting wikipedia overview article on human migration.

There seems to have been some good expert thought on this topic. But I don't see expert thought on the optimization of global population distribution. Where can I find it?

Most discussion I find are arguments that increasing immigration will lead to "national greatness" for the USA or will ruin the USA or some such thing. How about global migration from the perspective of global welfare? What should we be encouraging? What should we be discouraging? It's weird that optimization of the world economy, trade and even its population are often discussed, but I'm having trouble finding discussion about optimizing the world's population distribution.

I'd guess we'd benefit from a lot more homogenization and megaurbanization (for the benefits of cohesion and economies of scale) but perhaps some populations would benefit from having a large minority or small majority of population with higher social capital mixed in (for example, maybe Lagos would be more optimized if it were 20%-60% Anglo/Han Chinese).

Yglesias on global coordination to grow world gdp

Yglesias virtuously promotes coordination to grow global gdp rather than zero (or negative?) sum competition between nations for growth.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wikipedia on Optimum Currency Area

There seems to be quite a bit of legitimate controversy about Optimum Currency Area. Keynsians seem to think: one sovereign state, one currency, Austrians seem to think currency should often be privately run (like stock exchanges, perhaps?) but a more technocratic Austrian might concede heavy public regulation of a private national, subnational, or supernational currency.

optimum currency theorists seem to think the US probably should have a couple regional currencies, but we're not doing that bad with one currency. The major element seems to me to be if a region tends to cycle economically -that region should share a currency and be divorced from currencies of regions that cycle differently.

Since there seems to be a lot of good faith disagreement here I think diversified experimentation makes a a lot of sense.

From Prof. DeLong: What Prof. Summers says we should be doing now: Fixing US Housing economic sector

What should we be paying attention to right now? What should we be doing right now? High on the list, even from a global perspective, is probably fixing the US housing economic sector of the global economy. Here is Prof. Summers, being what I think is a Bostrom Agent (see my Neurotic Manifesto for its definition):

The question now is what should be done…. [T]he FHFA… has taken a narrow view of the public interest… has not acted to ensure the GSEs stabilise the US housing market, and taken no account that the narrow financial interest of the GSEs depends on a national housing recovery…. A better approach would involve several changes in policy.

First… credit standards for those seeking to buy homes [now] are too high and rigorous….

Second… those on GSE-guaranteed mortgages should… be able to take advantage of lower rates….

Third, stabilising the housing market will require doing something about the large and growing inventory of foreclosed properties….

Fourth… [while] the Obama administration’s home affordability modification programme has been criticised for overly restrictive eligibility criteria, the reality is that a large fraction of those receiving assistance have ultimately been unable to meet even their reduced obligations…. Surely there is a strong case for experimentation with principal reduction strategies at the local level. The GSEs should be required to drop their posture of opposition to experimentation and move to a more constructive position.

Fifth… allowing negotiation over the past to dominate present policy creates overhangs of uncertainty that impose huge costs on the financial system and inhibits lending….

With a constructive approach by independent regulators, far better policies could be in place six months from now. The anticipation of a change to supportive policies could change the tone of the market even sooner. There is nothing else on the feasible political horizon that can make as large a difference in driving American economic recovery.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nominal GDP Targeting: Limited by how many trillions of stuff the Fed Govt. can buy?

I get from this Delong post

that he's not certain if the Fed can buy enough trillions of dollars of stuff to adjust US GDP to where it should be. He thought 3 trillion would be more than enough, but apparently the Fed has $3 trillion in assets its bought since the recession began in 2008 and it hasn't been enough to get us to nominal gdp.

I'm not smart enough to take this anyplace, so its more a regurgitation of his post for my own autodidactic purposes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Should American Immigration = Emmigration? What's the best ratio for the world?

Yglesias is making his asshole case for more immigration to the US on the grounds of "national greatness". What's best for global welfare, factoring in optimized economic growth, climate management, etc.? I think the default would be immigration equaling emmigration. Beyond that, what's best for the world? Is there a coordination problem here that needs to be solved. And beyond the US, how should the global population be sorting itself for the global welfare?

Who are the experts thinking about this?

Coment on ISteve -America is Distinctly English speaking majority white, not distinctly nation of immigrants

America is fundamentally an Anglo-Saxon, majority European project, it seems to me, and that's not a bad thing.

Consider the others in that class:

United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Am I missing any of note? The USA has more in common with that category than other immigrant-defined nations like Brazil or, well, Brazil, it seems to me.

The dull truth is we're another English-speaking, mostly white nation, and they're all doing pretty good. In some respects almost as well as Scandinavian nations, in fact.

Hopefully Anonymous

Another comment to Half Sigma: I like Romney, but I like Hubbard/Mankiw better

Well, I share HalfSigma's enthusiasm for Romney. My ideology is more technocratic than conservative or liberal. Valuing "conservatism" over technocratic competence is a lot like valuing "communism" over technocratic competence -it's stupid.

I'm coming to the belief that a President probably should be a top tier empirical macroeconomist, and then beyond that get good successive administrative experience culminating in being governor of a large population state. For example, Prime Minister Singh of India fits the bill pretty closely. Economic management is the fundamental competence for state leadership, it seems to me.

Until folks like Hubbard and Mankiw can be pushed to run for Governorships, A JD cum laude, MBA Bates Scholar from Harvard Law School represents a significant up-ratchet in technocratic competence for the Republicans and for presidential candidates generally.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Physicist is Skeptical of Mere Climate Scientists, Physicist Replicates Results of Climate Scientists?

Do you believe this story? I do, but I'm neither a climate scientist nor an imperialist from a higher IQ field checking the rigor of their work. Nor am I an independent fact-checking journalist.

Brain Droppings October 21, 2011

1. In my understanding NGDP targeting, is the second best thing to some sort of policy that DeLong/Krugman are advocating for, that in Yglesias' words would involve "fiscal and monetary policy rowing in the same direction" -and that NGDP targeting actually has some heat and so may win public and establishment support. To which I say, bring on the technocratic incursion --deficit reduction talk by dummies was a creepy national (and still quasi global?) moment. Beyond that, this naturally opens up world GDP targeting, and also concepts of maximally fair trade targeting between countries. Who's looking at these topics? It could be a good way to mentally break from the merry go round of rent-seeking positioning that seems to me to deform most social epistemology on these topics.

2. Russ Roberts had an interesting reply to Krugman in Krugman's comments and on Roberts' blog. I think of Roberts' econlog GMU type crew as dumber than the DeLong/Krugman cohort, but in some ways more virtuous in public engagement (I'd really rather hear many more Krugman/DeLong/Romer podcasts, but I'm probably a microniche audience). Roberts in my understanding claims that a good faith read of research on spending multipliers indicates that there's no scientific consensus, and that the multiplier may range to negative (technically fractional, which I think intuits better as negative?) to significant -I think I remember the range being .5 - 2, and he says that people that claim otherwise are being ideological. I'm surprised by the lack of invoking bayesian reasoning for a best guess at what policy we should extrapolate from these priors with regards to stimulus by Roberts, which makes his argument here a bit suspect to me and similar to how creationists attack teaching only evolution in public schools. I'm less expert and dumber than all parties in this dispute- my intuition says go all in with the DeLong crew, and split no difference with the polite but dumber seeming Roberts.

3. Non-quantitatively literate law types are getting away with far too much blithe regulation in the judicial sphere. I think the econlog crew was fairly virtuous when they suggested replacing supreme court justices with economists, although the idea shocked me and seemed craven for economists to suggest at the time. A beginning solution is a mandatory and public economic impact analysis by a court economists for all judicial rulings by courts covering certain size jurisdictions, such as Federal appellate courts and State Supreme Courts. I think there is already something like this for a lot of administrative regulation (I doubt EPA or OSHA gets away with proposing new regulations without economic impact analysis).

4. Yglesias defense Maddow. I agree. She is much more virtuous than most other (maybe any) cable news show. Beyond that, she's being criticized by The New Republic? Maddow's news show may not have the intellectual cleanness of an expert blog, but I think she beats The New Republic on just about any topic -both in less ideological deformity and in rigour of topic discussion.

5. That crazy animal thing in Ohio, it reads sort of like an anti-libertarian parable, no? I think about bad regulation or the absence of good regulation sometimes in terms of the production of sadness (it makes it emotionally salient, although really, personally, I aspire to think about it in terms of maximizing persistence odds). I think it's part of the larger concept of good and bad design for how people actually use reality.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Neurotic Manifesto and Prof. Gelman on people not using the help page

I reply to a recent Prof. Gelman post on not chewing people out for not using the help page of something.

You might be interested in my working approach to moral accounting "The Neurotic Manifesto" on my blog.

Because on the one hand I agree it doesn't make sense to chew out people for not reading the help page. Extending that logic, I intuit it doesn't make sense to chew people out for chewing people out for not reading the help page. On the other hand, policing does move the animal spirits. Of course, policing against policing also moves the animal spirits. I still think coordinating (including policing) to improve our collective welfare is a good idea, or at least the best of all possible doomed projects to engage in. But I think we should be sensitive to how inchoate it is at the level of first principles, at least as we can discern them.

Why is Prof. Krugman not a macroeconomist? How could he do analysis as good as actual top macroeconomists?

I'm still not sure I understand why Prof. Krugman isn't considered a macroeconomist, in my understanding his expertise is in international trade, why exactly is that not macroeconomic? What constitutes his endless popular writing on macroeconomic topics -is it an exercise in procrastination? How could he see deeper about macroeconomics if similar talent spends all their time cultivating macroeconomic expertise and he's got a busy day job cultivating international trade expertise?

Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, shittily or aptly named?

I posted this in TGGP's comments a few seconds ago:

I may have a shitty understanding of macroeconomics because to me “macro” means big, so I think it means economic study on the largest order of scale (global economics, or the largest salient subdivisions of global economics). So that studying the effect of policy on the economic wellbeing of the USA would be macroeconomics. In that sense, I see its hard to deny that Marx was a macroeconomic historian.

“Micro” means small, so I think of microeconomics as the study of economics on the smallest scale, and perhaps slightly larger scales that don’t approach the salient features of macroeconomics. So that an experiment of how 100 people behave in a market with certain starting conditions and regulations would be a microeconomic experiment.

Perhaps my understanding of macroeconomics and microeconomics is way off -but then I think that would be an indication that the nomenclature is shitty.

EDIT: I checked wikipedia on macro and microeconomics. Macro seems to be what I thought above in this post. Micro and applied micro seems to touch some very macrosocial phenomena:

Study of the health care sector of the American economy? That's so large as to be a macrosocial phenomenon, for example.

I'm guessing its called micro if it looks at how something affects individual (consumer, worker, hirer, taxpayer) choices, even if its looking at it in large, macrosocial aggregrations.

Wikipedia on the Federal Reserve -Jesus, it's complicated.

I just skimmed the wikipedia article on the Federal Reserve

Jesus, it's complicated. My sense is that Prof. DeLong has the right gameplan on how to utilize the Fed, the Treasury, Fannie Freddie Mae, the annual federal budget, etc. to optimize the American economy. I don't have the same confidence in the various agency heads and high level subadministrators.

But I'd like to know who they are and their analyses and strategies. But starting with the Fed, sheesh, it's complicated. And I guess govenors get appointed to fucking long terms (but maybe 10 years is ideal -I'd prefer 10 year terms for federal judges rather that life appointments).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I want Prof Delong to have more competition, I want a comprehensive review of the Fed Governors

My response to TGGP in the comments:

TGGP, I think Yglesias later posted a Dallas Fed guy as villian. I'd like to run through all the Fed governors and get a sense where they are.

DeLong seems to remain to me the asymptotically best macroeconomist on this topic, despite his biases and all. I just wish he had more good faith competition on the top mind/top explainer area, or at least more that I was aware of.

Hopefully Anonymous

Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, shittily or aptly named?

I posted this in TGGP's comments a few seconds ago:

I may have a shitty understanding of macroeconomics because to me “macro” means big, so I think it means economic study on the largest order of scale (global economics, or the largest salient subdivisions of global economics). So that studying the effect of policy on the economic wellbeing of the USA would be macroeconomics. In that sense, I see its hard to deny that Marx was a macroeconomic historian.

“Micro” means small, so I think of microeconomics as the study of economics on the smallest scale, and perhaps slightly larger scales that don’t approach the salient features of macroeconomics. So that an experiment of how 100 people behave in a market with certain starting conditions and regulations would be a microeconomic experiment.

Perhaps my understanding of macroeconomics and microeconomics is way off -but then I think that would be an indication that the nomenclature is shitty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Iran, technocratic, straussian, hard bargainer

Posted to Half Sigma. I expect he'll approve it, I think he's approved all my comments:

"Iran seems technocratic to me in a way that the Taliban are not (and were not when they were a sovereign government). 12th Imam stuff seems as straussian as bringing on revelations is in the USA. I think that type stuff is used to encourage populations to be irrationally hard bargainers (which can be a rational strategy by elites or even for that entire population, usually not for the welfare of the entire system, but for the relative welfare of competing subpopulations within that system)."

Hazy Incoherent Update October 17th, 2011

TGGP's chain gets yanked when I in my irony hunting label Iran a "somewhat liberal democracy".

Prof. DeLong, with his real flaws, seems to me to be closest to the blogging global administrative technocratic analyst.

Half Sigma and Steve Sailer seem to me to do the world's yeoman work of tackling repugnant ideas in ways that can bear fruit for the global welfare, flawed as they are, too.

I've long disliked Eliezer Yudkowsky and his sorta anti-credentialist, heroic-me shtick. I disliked even more the crowd that got their rocks off pumping up his messianic tendency. Having said that, that crowd created lesswrong, which has become pretty awesome. In my understanding Mr. Yudkowsky programmed the website in python and the crowd looks to me to have created something rare, noteworthy, and hard to accomplish: a resource that rivals wikipedia. A well-deserved kudos to Mr. Yudkowsky and his cohort.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm a fan of a 53% movement that focuses on competency majoritarianism, rather than indiscriminately lumping in with the wealthy

I'm actually a fan of a 53% (or so movement), and have been advocating for it for awhile, but NOT a 53% that lumps in indiscriminately with the wealthy, but rather with the competent. A sort of technocratic majoritarianism disfavors both small stakes nepotism and cronyism (DMV jobs should go to the most competent) and large stakes anti-technocratic power distributions (George W. Bush as president).

My response to recent Yglesias post -I support defunding humanities, switching it over to STEM

I'm open to massive defunding of humanities and switching it over STEM (and also quantitative social science) -I don't think of this as liberal vs. conservative, even though you're framing it that way. I'm a bit skeptical that "mild quantitative analysis" has great utility that can't be improved upon with "threshold competent deep quantitative literacy".

I think it's pretty obvious that there's huge deadweight from the abundance of student loan funded humanities majors in the USA and maybe other western countries. I think they're epitomized not by the well-rounded liberal arts BA (or by the Harvard philosophy BA), but rather by the college dropout with about 3 years of English major and 5 or 6 figure student loans from podunk private university doing a job they'd qualify for with a high school diploma.

Why I'm Not A Progressive (Sparked by a Dain (Mupetblast) Comment)

Culled From TGGP's comment section:

Dain (Mupetblast) Says:

October 11, 2011 at 12:54 am
Now there’s this.

According to a press release for the march, the targets were, “specifically chosen for their willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99%.”

Death to the hoarders! This shit is as ancient as it is base.

Hopefully Anonymous Says:

October 11, 2011 at 1:09 am
Where does your aesthetic come from? On the one hand “rational” targeting of rentier elites seems astroturfy to me because the masses are too stupid to have that as a schelling point.

On the other hand, it’s comical to have a good faith pity party for people at the beneficial 1% tail of just about any distribution pattern.

I’m not a progressive because my focus isn’t on either the central tendency or the left tail of the distribution when it comes to resource control (outcomes and safety nets is a trickier question but my focus sure as hell isn’t on risking survival of the central tendency to protect welfare or egalitarian conditions for the left tail).

But the baseness claim I don’t really get. Policing against resource hoarding doesn’t seem base to me in and of itself. Then the discussion becomes technocratic.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Syncretic Post, Perhaps My Best Ever Contribution to the Social Epistemological Project

I'm going to sketch this out in an effort to get it right. It'll probably be the lense through which I analyze other blogger for awhile.

1. Agent Zero: An agent popularly perceived as having the capacity to make an action-decision that affects the existential odds of the rest of us (the six billion people in our apparent reality).
2. There is an optimal action-decision Agent Zero can make. There is also a worst possible action-decision Agent Zero can make. Along this axis we popularly grade Agent Zero as hero or villian.
3. What follows are a set of Influence Agents. They are not Agent Zero, but they are either popularly perceived as having the ability to influence Agent Zero, or I define them as having the potential ability to influence Agent Zero, even if not popularly perceived, as my way of dealing with strategic framing of agents as not having the ability to (and hence possible villianous framing due to failure to) influence Agent Zero to make the optimal action-decision.
4. Bostrom-Goffman Influence Agent. This is an influence agent who sucessfully influences Agent Zero to make the optimal action-decision. (Bostrom implies motivation for the optimal decision to be made, Goffman implies following the optimal theatrical strategy for the optimal decision to be made).
5. Semmelweiss Influence Agent. A Semmelweis Agent publicly tells Agent Zero to make the (Bostrom) Optimal Action-Decision. But the Semmelweiss agent doesn't follow a Goffman Optimal consequentialist theactrical strategy, so Agent Zero does NOT make the optimal Action-Decision.
6. Heckler Influence Agent. A heckler influence agent publicaly tells Agent Zero not to make the (Bostrom) Optimal Action-Decision, and does NOT do so as part of a Goffman Optimal (double game) consequentialist theatrical strategy, so Agent Zero does NOT make the optimal Action-Decision.
7. Subsidiary Influence Agents. Primary influence agents that directly influence Agent Zero are themselves influence by subsidiary influence agents. Subsidiary influence agents can also be Bostrom-Goffman, Heckler, or Semmelweiss Agents.
8. We are all at least a subsidiary influence agent for every action-decision made in the closed set of all 6 billion people in our apparent reality.
9. Inaction by an agent, be they agent zero, a direct influence agent, or a subsidiary influence agent, is itself a default action-decision.

Moral accounting may be a bit silly, and not grounded in best of breed current scientific understanding of "free will", etc. But I think this is a better more comprehensive framework than the microsocial games played by the best living macrosocial scientists and policy optimizers that I'm aware of.

I'd appreciate being directed toward more rigorous thought on these areas than I've done here. I'm not trying to reinvent a wheel -I'd much rather find one already much better than I've got here.

EDIT: I'm thinking of calling this "The Neurotic Manifesto"

Brain Droppings October 8th, 2011: Mitt Romney is not an empty suit, excess democracy a legitimate concern

Prof. DeLong titles or quotes someone else titling Gov. Romney an "empty suit".

He's not. He's got a solid technocratic record JD (cum laude) MBA (bates scholar) from harvard, and served a term as governor of MA, non-disastrously. Or let me put it this way. I'll grant Gov. Romney is more of an "empty suit" than Prime Minister Singh of India and Mayor Bloomberg of New York -two administrators I consider to be his technocratic superiors. But I don't think he's more of an "empty suit" than former President Clinton or Secretary of State Clinton. That Prof. DeLong would characterize or Gov. Romney as an "empty suit" but not do the same for either Clinton is ideological, not good faith social epistemology.

I don't think it does us any favors to blur B grade technocrats like Gov. Romney with F grade technocrats like Gov. Palin.

Also, I noted a recent round of cliquish mockery of the former OMB director (I forget his name)claiming we need more decision making by experts. I noticed Prof. Krugman and Prof. Gelman piled on (I was particularly disappointed by Prof. Gelman's choice. Thus I think it's a sweet boomerang that Prof. Krugman recently felt the need to defend himself as being elitist at least in the sense that he think detailed macroeconomic policy formation is hard and perhaps shouldn't always be crowd sourced. Prof. DeLong, probably the best non-anonymous advocate of technocratic ratcheting blogging today, virtuously passed on another blog comment urging caution against "excessive democracy" in some policy sphere.

Killing american citizens by predator drone with a secret panel of senior federal officials -I'm all for it, for now. I intuit it passes cost benefit analysis magnificently. My basic test is a three parter: (1) less than 1% of US citizens affected, (2) less than 1% of people in the world affected, (2) it's done to reduce existential risk, not just to reduce dissent or diversity of opinion.

I think we spend way too much on rights and we're also spending too much to protect against unlikely threats. whacking propotionately tiny amount of american citizen terrorists nicely solves both problems.

Chelsea Clinton: what a symbol of what's wrong with America without inciting the attention it deserves. She's apparently earning a double doctorate from two private universities while working for her Dad's foundation. That sort of educational expenditure should be taxed through the roof in my opinion, same with the income stream from Dad's foundation. I don't necessarily support bans on overeducation of the kids of rich elites and private sector nepotism, but let's make it a rich pigovian revenue stream -although yes, sigh, subject that policy idea to experimentation, cost benefit analysis, and general empirical scrutiny.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A quick technocratic temperature check of the world's subregional administrators

The functional chief administrator of the world's respective subregions:

-China & East Asia: President Hu Jintao of China

Technocratic bonafides quote: "Hu possesses a low-key and reserved leadership style, and is reportedly a firm believer in consensus-based rule.[4] These traits have made Hu a rather bland figure in the public eye, embodying the focus in Chinese politics on technocratic competence rather than personality"

-India & South Asia: Prime Minister Singh of India

Technocratic bonafides quote: "He attended Panjab University, Chandigarh, then in Hoshiarpur,[6][7][8][9] Punjab, studying Economics and got his bachelor's and master's degrees in 1952 and 1954, respectively, standing first throughout his academic career. He went on to read for the Economics Tripos at Cambridge as a member of St John's College. He won the Wright's Prize for distinguished performance in 1955 and 1957. He was also one of the few recipients of the Wrenbury scholarship. In 1962, Singh completed his studies from the University of Oxford where he was a member of Nuffield College. The title of his doctoral thesis was "India’s export performance, 1951–1960, export prospects and policy implications" and his thesis supervisor was Dr. I.M.D. Little."

-EU & Former Soviet Europe: Chancellor Merkel of Germany

Awesome technocratic credentials

"Merkel was educated in Templin and at the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. While a student, she participated in the reconstruction of the ruin of the Moritzbastei, a project students initiated to create their own club and recreation facility on campus. Such an initiative was unprecedented in the GDR of that period, and initially resisted by the University of Leipzig. However, with backing of the local leadership of the SED party, the project was allowed to proceed.[10] Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990. She learned to speak Russian fluently, and earned a statewide prize for her proficiency.[citation needed] After being awarded a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) for her thesis on quantum chemistry,[11] she worked as a researcher."

-USA & Anglosphere: President Obama of the United States

Decent technocratic credentials, not as quanty as I'd like

-Africa: President Zuma of South Africa

Terrible technocratic credentials

-Middle East and North Africa: Prime Minister Sharaf of Egypt

Outstanding technocratic credentials:

"After receiving his B.Sc. in civil engineering from Cairo University in 1975, he went to Purdue University where he continued his studies, receiving his M.Sc. Engg in 1980 and his Ph.D. in 1984."

-Latin America and the Carribean: President Rousseff of Brazil

Weak technocratic credentials.

Indonesia and the Pacific Islands

Below Mediocre technocratic credentials President Yudhoyono:

"Whilst at Seskoad, Yudhoyono also took the opportunity to further his own military education. He went to the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While in the United States, he took the opportunity to obtain an MA degree in business management from Webster University in 1991."

What Should The World Be Doing Right Now? 8 major subregions considered

What should the world be doing right now? I break it down (poorly, sloppily) according to what I see as the 8 major subregions of geography, culture, and/or affinity:

-China & East Asia: It seems like China is contributing to global instability by giving massive support to African dictatorships shunned by the Anglosphere and the EU. On the other hand, I think China massively contributed to global stability by agressively policing its population growth rate. I'd like China to seek competitive alternatives rather than arming and infrastructurizing shunned African states. But it's an empirical question, what's best for the world.

-India & South Asia: Seems to me to be doing fine. I love Prime Minister Singh, the type of quant-competent, elite talent technocrat that should be administering 20% of the world's population. Of course there seems to be the endless stability problem of non-India south asian states.

-EU & Former Soviet Europe: Prof. DeLong types blog that for some reason the EU leadership class has seized on austerity rather than Keynsian economic approaches, to the great loss of the EU. Also, the indication is that the euro is a bad idea, that if anything more localized currency is the direction all large states should be going. I say go with expert community recommendations and abandon zombie marches towards less wealth.

-USA & Anglosphere: Seems to me to be doing a better job at bending in the deferential direction of expert communities. I like the predator assassinations. I think we probably need more of them, and for domestic ones to be done. I suspect it awesomely passes cost benefit analysis. when far less that 1% of the American and global populations are affected by drone assassinations, I don't see much cause for fear or concern (except to the extent they may stamp our rare & useful controversial idea generators in the name of security -not a concern assasinating al quaeda and equivalent destabilizing populations).

-Africa: Hoo boy. Where to start. I'd like to see African states reorganized along homogeneous ethnic lines, but that would take a strong central continental authority and I don't see it happening. I think there's a massive cholera epidemic happening or about to happen in Sudan, other than that I'm not tracking current events in Africa as well as I should.

-Middle East and North Africa: Seems to me to be moving in a good direction. Hopefully the Arab Spring will bring a technocratic ratchet up and not just more democracy.

-Latin America and the Carribean: Haven't heard too much. Glad to see wannabe lifer Hugo Chavez dying.