Smart Religion


Gently correcting Sailer on ‘Nate Silver’

He writes:

I seem to be the only person in the world who has usually had mildly positive views of Silver.

Technically not 100% true. There’s also me.

During the 2012 election, he did a good job of making up a spreadsheet with weighted averages of the 90 or so different Presidential polls out there.

Sure did. But so did I. I’m also winning my March Madness pool BTW (basically same type of spreadsheet).

Anyway, Sailer does a good job of pointing out how the subject of ‘Nate Silver’ seems to just drive certain people crazy. I include myself here. For example, there’s this guy I’ve been seeing on the train lately who wears jeans on his way to work, sports closed-cropped brown hair, and wears glasses. And so of course, what do I think?

“Hey! That dude’s probably Nate Silver!”

Which is just crazy, of course. (But still could be kinda true?, whispers a voice in the back of my mind.) Nate, if that’s you, sorry I ignored you when you tried to make some funny comment to me. I was just too freaked out. Now, because I, like ‘Nate Silver’, am “Data-Driven”™, here’s a graph (which I trust will be self-explanatory):



Open Borders is a morally imperative free-lunch, and also, it will have little measurable effect

Open-bordersers using utilitarian arguments need to argue that opening borders will necessarily lead to a materially-large influx of immigrants quickly. That’s because they need to point to a gigantic World-Utility-Function free-lunch gain supposedly to be had, and they need people to perceive it as so automatically large that it outweighs any doubts about the (dubious, and Large) calculation methods used to get there, not to mention whatever nativists’ petty and racist selfish concerns are (being unemployed, paying a lot of taxes, being victimized by criminals, etc.)

However, they also don’t want to spook non-open-bordersers too much, lest they lose the political battle. Gotta win arguments any way they can! So, for that purpose they will now apparently trot out arguments that – don’t worry, guys! – opening borders won’t necessarily lead to a materially-large influx of immigrants quickly, because you need a diaspora of some critical-mass size to already be there first. (This diaspora-necessity factor never having been mentioned before or alluded to, nor will it be, in the free-lunch argument, of course.)

So now you know: it will, but it also won’t. It all depends on which particular argument open bordersers are trying to make at the moment.

Wunderkindz on Teh Debt

Apparently this is the sort of output we can expect from wunderkind Ezra Klein and wunderkind Matthew Yglesiases’s new multimillion-dollar media outlet, which I assume is called “Wunderkindz”. (If it’s not, it should be.)

I have no reaction to it as the video is so mind bogglingly dumb and simplistic that it basically parodies itself. Or rather, J.D. Tuccille wrote my reaction already so I can outsource my blogging to him (thanks! I don’t really like blogging).

Did Ezra Klein really raise 8-digit funding to make news-oriented web cartoons pitched at people with the knowledge of 7 year olds? If so, well done sir. Bravo.

I Could Totally Be Saying Nate Silver Is Right Right Now

Being immune to whatever it is that made so many people so fascinated by the guy, I barely pay attention to ‘Nate Silver’ except via secondhand chatter/gripes, which is how I know he seems to have ticked off the left recently. Not sure how though, which is a damn shame, because as one of the few righties who defended (what I gathered about) Nate Silver back during the Great Silverbating Spasm of 2012, I have quite a lot of Consistency Points™ saved up. I could totally cash them in and trumpet – without being accused of opportunistic bandwagonesque thinking – whatever Silver is saying that the left is so peeved about, if only I knew what the heck it was. Ah well. I never was a very good blogger.

Stopped Clocks

I agree with Kevin Drum:

And what has Russia gotten in return? Ten thousand square miles of territory that, nationalistic pride aside, mostly represents a political and economic drain on the state. That Putin sure is a master geopolitical strategist, isn’t he?

I dunno, it’s just such a rare event that it seemed worth noting.

STUDY: Volckerified, risk-free, post-Dodd-Frank banks somehow would lose money in a downturn

I heard they stress-tested banks and found that, in a ‘major economic downturn’ scenario, the banks they stress-tested would collectively lose $501 billion. Can someone explain this?

I was told that the Volcker Rule banned prop trading by banks. Prop trading, as we all know, is a totally real and definable thing: it means when banks do trades ‘for their own account’ instead of ‘on behalf of a client’. Banks can’t do this anymore. All trades they do, if they do, must be ‘on behalf of a client’.

So hey then, why would they lose a single cent in a downturn? That makes no sense. Even if/when bad stuff happens, presumably it only happens to whatever client(s) the banks did their trades ‘on behalf of’. What’s that got to do with the banks themselves?

I was thinking maybe a downturn means less economic activity overall, thus, less fees and such, and somehow that added up to $501 billion (the same way Starbuck’s would lose money in a downturn), but no. The article explicitly breaks out this $501 billion as including ‘loan losses of $366 billion, and $98 billion in trading and counterparty losses’. Wait, what??

Counterparties are counterparties to trades of some kind or another. Banks can’t do that anymore, ‘for their own account’. See Volcker Rule.

Trading is, well, trading. How could banks lose $98 billion on something they’re clearly no longer allowed to do? Volcker Rule.

And loans are trades too: cash money is traded for a piece of paper. The paper says ‘I promise to pay you back’. That kind of trade involves a risky bet that the person signing that piece of paper will indeed pay the person back. So again, surely, banks can’t put on such risky trades, i.e. make ‘loans’, anymore. Volcker Rule!

Actually, why are they still even doing this exercise, post-Volcker? What is there to even ‘stress test’? We had all already agreed that banks shouldn’t have risk anymore.  Then we passed the Volcker Rule, and so now they don’t. The whole thing just makes no sense. Can someone explain? Why it’s almost as if every argument that was ever put forth in favor of the Volcker Rule was not only self-contradictory but made no sense whatsoever.


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