Bryan Caplan discovers trade-offs
October 29, 2014, 7:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bryan Caplan says:

Now suppose you subscribe to the political philosophy of citizenism: You think that governments should maximize the well-being of their citizens, with little regard for non-citizens. Is there any principled reason to reject emigration restrictions? The citizenist could say, “I favor putting citizens’ interests ahead of foreigners’ interests, but not some citizens’ interests ahead of other citizens’ interests.” But immigration restrictions clearly do the latter. Some citizens greatly benefit from doing business with foreigners; immigration law still tells them, “Tough luck.” In the real world, every citizenist has to make trade-offs between the welfare of different kinds of citizens.

Fair point.

But you know what else? Not to restrict immigration puts some citizens’ interests ahead of other citizens’ interests. As a smart man once said: some citizens greatly benefit from ‘doing business with’ foreigners. But others may be net-harmed by emigration of foreigners. In the real world, every open-borderser has to make trade-offs between the welfare of different kinds of citizens.

Economist Bryan Caplan has just rediscovered the advanced economics concept of trade-offs.

Citizenists propose mediating this inherent conflict by a representative government whose mandate is to try to balance these trade-offs in such a way that the commonwealth benefits as a whole. Using (for example) the ballot box. Yes, this is hard-to-impossible to do in a way that uniformly benefits every single citizen in the country. Realizing this (and being grownups), I guess that citizenists would suggest: well let’s do our best, shall we?

Open-borderers, meanwhile, largely propose mediating this inherent conflict by ignoring it. Oh sure, they say open-borders would help economically and all that jazz, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to their position how many citizens would be helped or harmed by an open-borders policy. Freedom Of Movement is a right; there is an inalienable human right to relocate to within the boundaries of the United States of America; therefore your argument is invalid. Doesn’t matter, in fact. Trade-offs don’t matter, weighing one person’s utility against another’s doesn’t matter, all these discussions don’t matter. Immigrating here is a right so there. It follows from Freedom Of Association, you see, due to the tea-date argument.

Question: If citizenism justifies immigration restrictions, why not emigration restrictions?

Because the latter would be impinging on the rights of some citizens who wish to emigrate. Citizenists care about and want government to respect the rights of citizens, you see. I know this is a very difficult concept for some. Meanwhile, others of us can actually tell the difference between locking people in and keeping people out of a place.

Now, I am sure Caplan thinks he has made a great parallel here, because of course, he thinks that emigration to the US is a universal right (tea date, etc.). If you think that too then you too are impressed. Otherwise, not so much.

Missing Black Player revisited
October 28, 2014, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

From time to time I’ve noted the persistent, ever-present crisis of the missing black player in baseball, and this Vox-like Business Insider video is ON IT. From it we learn these scintillating facts that have lefty white guys with sideburns everywhere wringing their hands:

  • The percentage of major leaguers who are ‘African-American’ is ONLY 8%. (This, versus their fraction in the general population which is a humongously higher 12-13% or so – hence, the classical ‘missing black player’ problem first identified by [ibid 2008]).
  • White people be rich, but black people? Black people be poor! (…said the caring lefty)
  • You can’t possibly play baseball as a kid unless you be rich
  • As a result (?), only 3 players playing in the World Series are ‘African-American’.

Now, so far this is just #science. But something is fishy here. Ok sure I’ll buy that only 3 players on the Giants & Royals are ‘African-American’. I guess the three are Terrance Gore, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain of the Royals.

However, a glance at the active rosters reveals that there are some other at-least-somewhat-darkly-hued-skin guys who are also playing in the World Series:

Santiago Casilla
Jean Machi
Yusmeiro Petit
Sergio Romo
Joaquin Arias
Pablo Sandoval
Gregor Blanco
Juan Perez
Kelvin Herrera
Yordano Ventura
Salvador Perez
Alcides Escober
Omar Infante

Add these to the original 3 ‘African-Americans’ and we’re up to 34% of the collective rosters being darkly-skin-hued. Or I guess some of them are ‘Latino’. I’m not as much of an expert on parsing skin hues as lefty white hipsters are. There’s also an Asian or two, by the way. Either way, what this highlights is that maybe the real problem here is that there just aren’t enough whites on these teams? (But whyyyyyyyyy??? Get on it, BI! Make me a video!)

Anyway, here’s the real point here. Remember the part of the theory that goes, blacks aren’t getting into baseball cuz they be too poor and whatnot? The above list of guys are presumably mostly guys from various Central/South American countries like Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and so on.

Am I to understand that those guys all grew up in wealthy families that sent them to ‘pay-for-play’/’premier league’ baseball, and then got college scholarships?

Anyway, as we know, the endless heroic quest to find Something Wrong With Baseball marches on, impervious to all logic.

These Standards I Argued For Are Absurd
October 26, 2014, 10:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Barry Ritholtz, the barometer of Smart Wall Street thinking, got a mortgage and it was annoying as hell.

Welcome to the club, Barry!

I think going through Underwriting Insanity is destined to be one of those great democratizing, universal experiences. It’s just that it happens to different people with different lags, because we don’t all buy houses at the same time. BUT IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU.

Barry says, sensibly,

What lenders do now goes beyond absurd. They don’t need to see every check written during the past 24 months. An explanation isn’t required for every $2,000 deposit into a family checking account. Three years of both personal and professional tax returns seems excessive.

Agreed on all counts! All sensible people would agree. But these are standards, not people, we’re dealing with. The computer says you need to write a Letter Of Explanation, you need to write a Letter Of Explanation. The computer flags that check, you gotta explain it.

And those standards were put in place in the wake of (a) Wall Street blowing up over mortgages, (b) Smart Wall Street saying stuff like Banks shouldn’t have been allowed to make so many bad loans!, We need better underwriting standards!, and any number of other, similar Smart, sensible critiques that you can probably find in dozens of columns from certain Smart Wall Street barometer types circa 2009-2012.

Now finally they’re actually going and getting mortgages and encountering the results, so I guess we’ll be getting those columns now. This column should serve as fair warning, so as usual we are indebted to Ritholtz for being such a reliable barometer of: Smart Wall Street.

Thanks, BV (2 years late)
October 23, 2014, 7:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bloomberg View: Whale Hunting Isn’t Fed’s Job

Regulators can’t be expected to stop banks from making bad decisions that cost them money. [...] …regulators aren’t well placed to manage such risks. No matter how many people they throw at the task, they can’t prevent banks from making mistakes. It’s one thing to make rules that protect shareholders and the public by containing moral hazard and creating the right incentives; it’s quite another to try to set up as shadow managers.

My thoughts exactly. Thoughts I was, you’ll recall, posting futilely roughly 170,000x/day back in 2012.

#GamerGate, explained
October 18, 2014, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I figure I’m good enough at explaining things by this point (check this out for example) that there’s an outside chance a career at Vox is in my future. I mean, I can dream. So I thought I’d write another Sonicsplainer, if you will, to add to my portfolio of work for when I muster up the courage to reach out to Vox’s HR department.

Today’s topic is #GamerGate.

What is #GamerGate?

#GamerGate is a word/hashtag thing that people use on the internet a lot lately, which apparently has some meaning to them, to the point that they are able to write blog posts and articles about (or regarding, or concerning) it, whatever it is.

How long has this been going on?

Although it feels like about nine years, I guess it’s been a week and a half or something.

What’s it all about?

Well here’s what we know so far:

  • A dude slept with a chick, like in Hong Kong or somewhere, we think.
  • Or they were going out or whatever.
  • But then they weren’t. Like, one or both of them stopped like-liking the other.
  • And got mad about it.

Well one thing led to another and suddenly before you know it everyone on the internet was talking about the dude who slept with the chick and how they were mad at each other and calling the whole thing #GamerGate.

What? That doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t it have something to do with videogames?

OH! Right. Forgot that part, my bad. So anyway, the first thing you need to realize is that apparently there are still those videogame magazines. Remember those? Like the one you’d leaf through at Fry’s Electronics to learn about up up down down left right left right B A start, or how to time Mario’s jump on the turtle just right that you’d get infinite lives.

Oh yeah! I remember those.

Right. So, it turns out they still exist. And a big part of #GamerGate is that a bunch of people are pissed off they they aren’t ethical.

LOL what?

Not ethical. They are corrupt and rotten to the core.

Wait hold up can we go back a bit I’m lost. What’s all this got to do with the dude who slept with the chick?

Um I think they were gamers or something. She made a videogame or whatever. So you see that’s all part of it. It’s all two sides to the same coin.

What sides?

Being mad that the dude slept with the chick and that Nintendo Power isn’t ethical.

I’m gonna need you to go through this a little more carefully. Why do they say the magazine isn’t ethical?

I think they think the industry has bought their silence/reviews. Something like the payola scandal in 20th century radio.

That doesn’t sound right at all. I keep hearing something about feminism, or anti-feminism, or anti-anti-maleism, or something.

Oh yeah. I think there’s also a thing about how political correctness has overwhelmed their objectivity, or something.

But, whose objectivity?

Some 22 year olds who review videogames for an online magazine or whatever. They wrote bad reviews of games some folks really like, and stuff like that.

LOL ok so this whole #GamerGate thing, it’s something only 13-14 year olds care about right?

Apparently not. You see a certain contingent of people who are grownups yet who are writing apparently sincere/serious things about it, indicating that they actually care.


I know right?

Ok what else?

Well, there’s #NotYourShield. See, a big part of #GamerGate is telling people that you are not their shield.

Their what?


Why would you be someone’s shield?

I’m not! That’s the whole point.

But I didn’t think you were.

Well good, because I’m not #NotYourShield

And this traces back to the dude who slept with the chick?

Right. Exactly.

And feminism?


And hating guys and/or girls? Or hating people who hate guys and/or girls?

Now you’re getting it!

I think so. Just a couple more questions.


Why are people still writing things about #GamerGate and using the hashtag/term #GamerGate on the internet, instead of, you know, just NOT DOING THAT in the first place, and doing/writing other things instead?

Beats me. But my theory is that it’s a brain-parasite, akin to the toxoplasmosis you can get from cat poop.


Well, there are many instances found in the animal kingdom of a parasite hijacking a creature’s brain and altering their personality and behavior to its own ends. This can cause the infected creature to act in strange ways that are on the surface inexplicable. Maybe writing things and blog posts about #GamerGate, as if those things and blog posts make rational sense to others and are interesting/important, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re not, is just such an example.

And then there are passive carriers, such as myself, who perpetuate the infection by also writing “#GamerGate”, thereby passing on the meme #GamerGate to others without even themselves really knowing what the hell it is.

That actually kinda makes sense.

It does. It sure does. It’s the only explanation, really.



Lamenting the ‘politicization’ of inherently political issues
October 17, 2014, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m normally a sucker for I’m-above-it-all lamenting of tribalism, but there’s something wrong with this piece. I can’t shake the feeling that it holds humanity up to an impossibly high standard: we’re all supposed to form opinions on various external, world things (Ebola, Rotherdam, climate change, etc.) with no reference whatsoever to the political realities and contexts in which all these debates occur. This seems purist but also, rather contrary to the spirit of things like democracy and political engagement.

I mean, if you reject the political context for some of these things, there is simply no reason whatsoever for 99.999% of humanity to even talk about them at all. But that can’t be right. People like to talk about stuff, and one of the things they like to talk about is other people and what they are doing, and yes they have reasons for doing so and for being interested in such things that aren’t always quite #science. Such an observation strikes me as both (a) true but also (b) unobjectionable, in itself.

Yes, debates happen and polarities are formed in a tribal way. I’ve said so too, in a similar above-it-all, yet-I-do-admit-my-faults tone (although in my case I really am above it all of course), but let’s not go overboard.

Political correctness makes people retarded
October 17, 2014, 7:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

A even-partially-competent government in the face of an infectious disease breakout in some region would take steps to ban, limit, or regulate travel from that region. The purpose of a government (of the type that the US nominally has, anyway) is theoretically to protect the life, liberty, and property of the people inside the place that it is the government of.

It is retarded that this has to be said.

Political correctness makes people retarded. Our Smart People betters with multiple degrees in sitting in their high important appointed positions are apparently acting on some retarded no-we-can’t-possibly-limit-travel-from-there instinct, and they can’t even explain why. They can’t even explain why because the position they’re taking is not rational, it is prerational, it is arational, it boils down to some sort of primordial knee-jerk ‘Africa is a place with people we darker skin, we can’t do that, darker skin, that’s racist’ analysis that doesn’t even rise to the level of a rational thought. And that’s retarded.

People are noticing. It’s not only rightwing wackos like myself. It’s impossible to view these explanations and excuses for not doing the obvious, simple thing that any even-partially-competent government would, almost by definition, be expected to do with anything but puzzlement and bafflement. They can’t limit travel because why? That makes no sense. Let me click over to Vox to ‘explain’ it to me…

People who don’t want to believe these things about our Smart People betters in government need to mainline an increasing amount of Vox-style propaganda to even function daily. This is what the Vox-style outlets of the internet are really good at, supplying the Believers with propaganda talking-points that they can cling to like a blanket and use to shield their brain from obvious facts and reasoning that threatens their world view. That Voxian infrastructure is needed by a goodly 40% of the population just to function, like a network of ideological methadone clinics.

This is what happens when ideology makes people retarded.

This isn’t a college dorm room argument about Race & The Other. It’s a highly contagious disease, people. (Smart People). The name of the thing is the Center For Disease Contro…I mean for pete’s sake it’s in the freakin name of the thing. You’re supposed to be reality-based. This is reality. This is what it looks like, and our supposedly ‘technocrat’ (remember ‘technocrat’?) Smart People betters are paralyzed in the face of it.


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