Bureaucracies create jobs. For mechanistic details see Parkinson’s Law.
Thanks, the Hadza study looks interesting. I’d have to read carefully at length to have a strong opinion on it but it seems like a good way to estimate the long-run target. I agree 16,000 is probably too much to take chronically, I’ve been staying below the TUL of 10,000, and expect to reduce the dosage significantly now that it’s been a few years and COVID case rates are waning.
This just seems like a much vaguer way to say the same thing I did. Is there a specific claim I made that you disagree with?
As far as I can tell, the function of this kind of vagueness is to avoid weakening the official narrative. Necessarily this also involves being unhelpful to anyone trying to make sense of state-published data, Fauci’s public statements, and other official and unofficial propaganda. If we have an implied disagreement, it’s about whether one ought to participate in a coverup to support the dominant regime, or try to inform people about how the system works.
This generalizes to actions.
Lots of people I know, including me, take way fewer actions than is optimal because we are trying to avoid making mistakes instead of trying to get what we want. (In some cases that’s just a cover story and we’re actually trying to avoid revealing our location or preferences, so that we’re not a target.) But in lots of contexts if you just do things, instead of trying to supervise your intentions so you only do things you’ve preapproved, you can get lots more done that you want to do.
If you’re worried that this is risky, you can think about what’s likely to go wrong and how important that is in the specific context where you’re considering to just do stuff, and plan ahead to mitigate the risks worth mitigating.
I’m gonna treat this as a serious question, since most of the value of engagement comes from that scenario, and ignore the vibe of “why are you so negative?”.
The gains from reason, discourse, and trade are so huge that they can produce positive returns for many people even in the presence of adversarial action. If you don’t see this, some suggested reading at a few levels:
Economics comic books published by the Federal Reserve
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
Ethics, by Spinoza
Human animals want to live, it takes a lot of optimization to pervert that even imperfectly, and that perversion reduces the capacities of the thing being perverted, which limits the damage.
So there’s a lot of perverse activity—which really is bad—but the good news is that if we were previously misattributing production to perverse activity, that means that the value per unit of nonperverse activity is much higher than we thought. Plus there are lots of people who are oppressed, and they have to be relatively nonperverse to survive since they don’t get taken care of for being bad.
I’d expect trying-to-live behavior to be trying to cooperate with other instances of itself, sharing and investigating what seems like relevant info. In the ideal case info being shared would be strong evidence of its relevance and importance, and info not being shared would be evidence of its unimportance.
“Intellectually incurious and un-agent-y” about info strongly relevant to mortality risk isn’t consistent with a rational-agent model of someone trying to live, and I don’t see what “trying to” could mean without at least implicit reference to a rational-agent model.
I don’t conclude that people are trying to hurt themselves to signal loyalty simply from the fact that they don’t seem to be trying very hard to survive. I conclude that from the relative popularity of injunctions to impose or endure harms for the collective good, vs info that doesn’t involve sacrifice. Many famous religious and philosophical writers have praised sacrifice for its own sake, which is strong evidence that some strong coordination mechanism is promoting such messages. Given that, it would be surprising—and require an explanation—if I didn’t know people who participated in that coordination mechanism.
But again you don’t have to go outside of mainstream microeconomics to find explanations for this. Liquidity premium is one (relatively mundane) explanation, and I suspect principle-agent problem again applies here, perhaps because it’s easier (less costly) for a shareholder to monitor one big company for misalignment, and for the company to institute governance measures to try to ensure alignment, than the equivalent for n smaller companies.
I would expect a liquidity premium to exist but I’d expect it to be much smaller than the size of opportunity I’m seeing—why do you expect to see one so large?
I don’t think the principal-agent problem explains anything here because large publicly traded corporations frequently have governance, financial structures, and operations that aren’t intelligible at all to casual investors. For example, I’ve taken courses in finance, accounting, and economics, and worked in financial services, and I have no idea how to evaluate Markopolos’s criticisms of GE, & compare this with their financial statements, because the latter are so vague. (Do you?) Nor was there a trusted intermediary whose evaluation methods I understood. (Can you recommend one?) In practice when I did own stocks I was relying on correlation with other investors—the government would try not to let us all fail at once—rather than any ability to meaningfully exercise oversight over centralized management.
The parenthetical questions are meant seriously, they’re not just rhetorical flourishes.
A standard principle-agent problem in corporate governance is managers who prefer to hoard cash instead of returning profits to investors, with the investors not trusting the managers to use that cash in their interests (instead of the managers’ own interests) in the future. (That’s probably why the shares of such a company are trading at such a low multiple to its earnings that you can afford to buy them by issuing debt.) Leveraged buyout can be viewed as a solution to this problem.
I understand this argument, it would be a perfectly logical reason for some leveraged buyouts to happen in some circumstances, but in practice many leveraged buyouts are a way to offload risk onto counterparties with less legible high-trust relationships with management, such as employees—e.g. in the airline bankruptcies—or consumers, who can’t use brand quality as much as they used to be able to because corporate decisions are made based on short-term numbers, and turnover means that the cost of eroded brand loyalty will be correlated across many companies and distributed across many people, and since the state won’t let large corporations in general fail all at once, we end up with bailouts. I recommended a book on the subject because I really can’t cover everything in the blog post, it’s long enough already and this sort of thing is very well documented elsewhere.
If you were an owner or investor of a bank, should you really prefer that lending decisions be based on the subjective judgement of loan officers? What if they decide to base their decisions in part on what maximizes their values instead of yours? E.g., demand kickbacks, make loans to their friends or allies, bias their decisions with political ideology, or just slack off when they’re supposed to be interviewing the farmer’s friends and neighbors.
I’d rather people investing on my behalf use objective profit-maximizing criteria, ideally with skin in the game, and that’s why it’s surprising that access to capital depends so much on the kinds of subjective factors you mention (checking whether someone has already been extended credit, whether they’re vibing the right way with VCs or bankers, whether they look like a normal borrower, and in the case I described, whether they took a class prescribed by the credit union) relative to economic considerations.
I have a close friend who was had a business bank account closed for avowedly discretionary reasons after a conversation with a banker where as far as I can tell the banker got spooked because he seemed like he had specific, creative plans that didn’t look normal. (Nothing illegal was discussed; they were thinking about something that might have attracted regulatory scrutiny, but they’d have been happy to negotiate or just look for a different counterparty for those transactions.)
An important case study here is Abacus Bank, the only bank to be prosecuted in relation to the 2008 financial crisis, as far as I can tell simply because they’re culturally decorrelated from other banks (small, ethnically Chinese, privately held). The prosecution didn’t work out, because Abacus hadn’t done any crimes.
If a physicist were to spend two hours trying to explain to me how they knew that the earth was flat, I’d expect to come away from that conversation with a better understanding of the physical world or the social construction of physics knowledge, which would better help me navigate my life, even if I ended up wronger on the bottom-line answer—because that’s how epistemically persuasive explanations work, they have to show an ability to win bets either more often or with less computational cost than alternative hypotheses.
Some optimizer computed by a human brain is doing it on purpose. I agree that it seems desirable to be able to coherently and nonvacuously say that this is generally not something the person wants. I tried to lay out a principled model that distinguishes between perverse and humane optimization in Civil Law and Political Drama.
Hard to predict. In my case helping organize an early distribution of masks to prisons gave me cred with a formidable formerly-incarcerated mental health care activist who’s now running for NY state assembly with a credible shot of winning, and who’s already helping draft state-level legislation on multiple topics of interest to me. Not how I’d pictured that working out, and not every such venture bears fruit, but I tried fewer than 10 things like that before one did.
Currently hoping to help an African immigrant I know raise funds for a cheap-remittances-and-banking business, it’s focused on Africa rather than South America so there’s plenty of room for the latter.
More generally the way to find such opportunities is cognitively loaded—first we need to be able to include them explicitly in our perceptions and true decision calculus as politically relevant persons, with interests that bear some relation to ours, who might have something to offer us in trade.
I guess people are mean because it moves them up in the pecking order, or prevents them from moving down, and they think it’s safer to be an aggressor than a victim. Since scolding people for maybe not wearing masks is a protected behavior, they can get away with more meanness, with less discernment, than in other contexts. I don’t fully understand why this gives people cover for being mean to mask-wearers in the name of pro-mask propaganda, but it seems to be the case. This seems like part of the same phenomenon: https://reductress.com/post/how-governor-cuomo-once-a-soft-sidepiece-snapped-into-a-dom-daddy-i-would-let-choke-me/
Even a similar focus on allowing the dominator to constrict your breathing!
My best guess is that being mean to people is considered part of the process by which you take care of them, since it’s part of the process of giving orders, as I sketched out in Civil Law and Political Drama, much like frame-controlling them is, as Vaniver pointed out here and here.
Playing to your outs seems potentially VNM-consistent in ways the log-odds approach doesn’t https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/j9Q8bRmwCgXRYAgcJ/miri-announces-new-death-with-dignity-strategy?commentId=cWaoFBM79atwnCadX
I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that “the MTA really is full of moustache-twirling villains” in order to believe that sometimes they’re mean to people on purpose. This is a normal thing that normal people do and doesn’t require someone to be totally committed at all times to evil. The interesting problem is not that someone was mean, but that the factional imperative to be pro-mask and anti-anti-mask effectively functions to provides cover for this, so that as part of their display of factional loyalty people refuse to recognize that someone did something mean.
Another instance of approximately the same error: “They are not trying to live. They are not trying to save their friends’ lives. If they were, they would have picked up my message about high-dose Vitamin D”. You are firmly convinced that high-dose vitamin D is plainly very helpful, but they may not be, and the reason need not be stupidity or dishonesty. E.g., Scott Alexander, at least as of December 2021, doesn’t think it likely that vitamin D is useful against Covid-19; he may be right or wrong, but to me this is already conclusive evidence that it isn’t obvious to any smart person who’s paying attention that vitamin D is useful against Covid-19. Which means that “if these people were really trying to save their own and their friends’ lives, they would agree with me about vitamin D” is just plain wrong.
I didn’t mean to claim that everyone would agree with me if they were trying to live. I meant that the vitamin D result would be interesting, and I’d see some combination of people being persuaded that vitamin D was helpful (and acting accordingly to pass along the info) or people making specific arguments against that proposition.
Instead what I saw among the kinds of people excited about vaccines was basically no intellectual initiative, combined with defensive nonsense like sneering at the idea of comparing costs and benefits as somehow unrelated to “reality,” when someone tries to makes sense of things in a decision-relevant way that doesn’t seem committed to getting the “right” answer for their faction.
An older cousin I talked with about this more recently openly admitted to me that she’d been anxiously trying to follow orders, that she’d been aware of this, and so when she felt like she was probably missing out on net by being too paranoid about COVID, arranged to get orders from a proper authority (someone who’d worked on the COVID vaccine studies) that it was correct to stop being so scared. The initiative to solve this problem seems like it reflects a desire to live, but it would have been a mistake to take anything she’d said about vaccine efficacy or COVID risk as a literal attempt to inform or part of a process of trying to figure out how to minimize nonpolitical harms from COVID.
It is extremely common for university students to become “artisans” in the sense that seems relevant here. (That is: people doing a skilled job that it is possible to do well or badly and in which it is possible to do better by trying harder.) And it is extremely common for university students to intend to become “artisans” in the same sense.Maybe Caplan is right that in fact it turns out that university education is, on balance, not helpful to people in doing their jobs. That can hardly be relevant to Lewis and his audience, back in 1944, decades before Bryan Caplan was even born.
It is extremely common for university students to become “artisans” in the sense that seems relevant here. (That is: people doing a skilled job that it is possible to do well or badly and in which it is possible to do better by trying harder.) And it is extremely common for university students to intend to become “artisans” in the same sense.
Maybe Caplan is right that in fact it turns out that university education is, on balance, not helpful to people in doing their jobs. That can hardly be relevant to Lewis and his audience, back in 1944, decades before Bryan Caplan was even born.
I’d expect it to be significantly more applicable to the kinds of students Lewis was speaking to, than the average college student now, because college used to be more of an extreme elite endeavor, and fewer jobs used to require a nonspecific college degree. And in fact the aggregate behavior of university graduates between Lewis’s time and now caused us to live in a more credentialist society, with weaker property rights, where normal college students feel like they don’t have freedom of speech because it’s so important to be liked, and a large share of “business” is governed by the culture of Moral Mazes.