In a post on the second order effects of autonomous vehicles, Ben Evans writes:
"Finally, remember the cameras. Pretty much every vision of automatic cars involves them using HD, 360 degree computer vision. That means that every AV will be watching everything that goes on around it - even the things that are not related to driving. An autonomous car is a moving panopticon. They might not be saving and uploading every part of that data. But they could be.
By implication, in 2030 or so, police investigating a crime won't just get copies of the CCTV from surrounding properties, but get copies of the sensor data from every car that happened to be passing, and then run facial recognition scans against known offenders. Or, perhaps, just ask if any car in the area thought it saw something suspicious."
On The Monkey Cage, Marc Lynch and Laurie Brand write:
"Refugee populations in states such as Jordan and Lebanon constitute well more than a quarter of the total population, and most are not housed within geographically distinct refugee camps. The enormous strain on their infrastructure has facilitated the introduction of a semi-permanent presence of international organizations and aid workers into the everyday governance of these noncitizen populations. This is challenging core elements of state sovereignty. States such as Jordan and Lebanon, already poorly equipped to provide security and services — from education and health care to basic foodstuffs and affordable housing — to their citizens now face new demands of millions of non-nationals. Many services required by refugees have been taken on by NGOs and international organizations, creating structures resembling those of state but without any domestic political accountability."
Sibling Correlations for Behavioral Traits: This figure displays sibling correlations for five traits measured in a large sample of Swedish brother pairs born 1951–1970. All outcomes except years of schooling are measured at conscription, around the age of 18. From a review paper by Cesarini and Visscher.
Cool network viz of Twitter data on political journalists. Takeaways:
"Excerpt from Deadliest Germs, a new book on the threat of emerging diseases, epidemiologist Dr. Michael T. Osterholm and writer Mark Olshaker present a fictional tabletop-like scenario involving an influenza pandemic in today’s world, with the virulence of 1918’s H1N1 strain, which resulted in the deaths of 50 million to 100 million people. This scenario has been reviewed by colleagues in public health preparedness and business continuity planning. There is general agreement that it is realistic and possible." Terrifying, link here.
Der Spiegel is suggesting that Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU will involve so many elements of strong disagreement, and such complexity, that a final deal might not be reached before the 2 year time limit of Article 50 expires:
"Negotiators in Brussels would like to see guarantees put in place that British and EU citizens will continue to enjoy the same rights that they do today. But ... it's clear that the British government cannot afford to show too much generosity on this front. Resentment toward the large number of Poles, Bulgarians and people from other EU countries living in Britain was one of the driving forces behind the Brexit vote. ...
EU Brexit negotiator Barnier issued a threat, essentially suggesting that if a Romanian nurse will require a visa to work in London, then John Cryan, who is from the UK, will also need one to work in Frankfurt. ...
The Europeans only want to discuss the free-trade agreement that Britain views as the core of its future relationship with the EU once solid progress has been made in negotiations over money and the rights of EU citizens. ...
The promise made by Brexit supporters had been that Britain could continue to enjoy all the economic benefits of EU membership without any of the disadvantages that come with it. In the meantime, it has become clear that the EU would never agree to such an arrangement. ...
In total, some 20,833 laws and regulations that were in effect in the EU and Britain at the beginning of 2017 must now be reviewed and possibly replaced. ... It could, in other words, ultimately take much longer than two years before a deal can be reached. ...
British exports of foodstuffs and livestock would, from one day to the next, be subject to inspection, a development for which the EU member states do not currently have the capacity to handle at their borders or their ports. Chief EU negotiator Barnier has warned of the specter of long traffic jams of trucks at the British port of Dover.
In light of all these hurdles, the term "dirty Brexit" has long since been making the rounds in Brussels and London. This would be a divorce without a joint agreement in the event the Brits and Europeans don't come to some sort of a deal before the day Britain departs the EU in March 2019. ... the damage to both sides would be immense. Whereas the economic consequences of Brexit would first likely become visible in the medium-term in the event of a deal, a disorderly withdrawal from the EU could trigger an economic shock. ...
Is this what the post-Brexit world is going to look like? Bitter competition in the place of integration and cooperation? ... In their report, lawyers inside the German parliament came up with a sardonic name for this scenario: "The Botswana Model." One could also just say that, in the end, everybody would lose."
Jed Kelko at 538 reports on results from the new Census data:
"In the last decades of the 20th century, the fastest growth was in the lower-density suburbs of large metros, with midsize and smaller metros growing more slowly and non-metro counties lagging — just as in 2016. And, in those earlier decades, growth in the South and West far outpaced that in the Northeast and Midwest — as in 2016. For individual counties, the correlation between growth in 2016 and growth from 1980 to 2000 is very high, at 0.72, and has been increasing in recent years: The further we get from the years before the housing bubble, the more population growth patterns look like the pre-bubble era."
Dietrich Vollrath writes:
I [Vollrath] drew on some work by Barkai, who calculated that the profit share in GDP had been rising steadily over the last thirty years … rising from about 2.5% of GDP in 1985 to over 15% in 2014. …
The solution to getting economic profits is to combine data on the total capital stock, K, with an assumption about the return to capital, R. The Capital Payments are then defined as RK, and once you know the Capital Payments, you can back out the Profits. In other words, Profits = Output - Wages - RK. …
the rate of return R is described by R = i - g + d. i is the nominal interest rate. g is the growth rate of the price of the capital good (capital gains), and d is depreciation. ...Barkai makes some assumptions to solve for R. He uses the interest rate on triple-A rated corporate bonds to stand in for the nominal interest rate i. He uses the observed inflation in the price of capital goods, available from the BEA’s data, to get his value for g. And the BEA also provides a number for the depreciation rate of different types of capital goods, based on their expected years of service, which he can use to get d. He solves for R for each of the three main types of capital goods - structures, equipment, and intellectual property - allowing each to have different values for g and d. At that point he can calculate RK for each type of capital, and then add up those total payments to get aggregate payments to capital. Once he knows the capital payments, he can back out the Profits. And once he knows Profits, he simply calculates Profits/GDP. …
For the BLS, the capital stock is a subset of the capital stock that Barkai uses. ... They exclude the stock of owner-occupied housing, which is included in Barkai’s calculations. Mechanically the reason Barkai gets a rising profit share is that he finds a fall in the share of GDP going to Capital Payments over time. … Why does Barkai find a fall in the capital share compared to the BLS? It may be due to an increase in the imputed value of housing in GDP. …
Here’s the thing. If the imputed GDP from owner-occupied housing is very high, but the payments to capital required by housing are small, then by implication the profits on owner-occupied housing are high. The rise in profits share seen in the Barkai paper could well be driven by the market power of house owners, and not by the market power of corporations, which is the intuitive response.
Matt Rognlie ... is interested in the share of GDP not going to labor. What he did was to decompose this total non-labor share into a part accounted for by housing, and for a part accounted for by non-housing. As you can see in the figure, the share of GDP going to housing (either as a return to capital or as profits) was increasing from 1950 to today. It rose from about 3% of GDP to about 10% in this period of time, while the share of GDP going to non-housing capital (either as a return to capital or as profits) was declining slightly. Combined, these two trends lead to a rise in the share of GDP going to capital as a whole, and was one of the key elements of Piketty’s book.
The total amount of GDP getting paid to owners of homes is rising over time (Rognlie). But at the same time, the required rate of return on capital is falling (Barkai and BLS), which means that the profits on owner-occupied housing must be rising.
What do I mean by profits? Remember that these are economic profits, not accounting profits. Owners of homes are not seeing an increase in their cash flow. As a home owner, I can assure you that my house does nothing but suck in cash, as opposed to producing it. Those economic profits are coming in the form of a higher imputed flow of GDP from my house over time. This implicit flow of value, a rent I’m charging myself, is getting cranked upwards over time, even if I don’t see it.
To think about how this works out as an economic profit, consider the following example. Let’s say you can take out a mortgage at 4%. That’s the nominal interest rate i. Let’s say houses depreciate at 1% per year, and you expect capital gains on your house to be something like 2% per year. Then the required rate of return to break even would be R = 4 - 2 + 1 = 3%.
If your house is worth 500,000, a 3% return would mean charging 15,000 in rent per year, or 1,250 per month. Now, if you look out at the market and find out that you could actually rent your house out for 2,000 per month, you are making 750 in economic profit. The price you can charge for your house, 2,000, is higher than the marginal cost to you, 1,250. Profits!
It doesn’t matter if you are paying yourself that rent or not. If your house can rent for more than the marginal cost, then you are making profits. The rise in the profit share in the Barkai analysis may be driven in part - or maybe mostly? - by the rise in the imputed value of rents going to owner occupied housing. ...
The implications of an increasing profit share coming from owner-occupied housing are a lot different from the implications of an increasing profit share coming from corporate market power or concentration. I need to think a lot harder about housing, it seems.
In a review of Jim Scott's Seeing Like a State, Scott Alexander writes:
"But the High Modernists were pawns in service of a deeper motive: the centralized state wanted the world to be “legible”, ie arranged in a way that made it easy to monitor and control. ...
An extensional definition [of High Modernism] might work better [than Jim Scott's academese]: ... people with college degrees knowing better than you, wiping away the foolish irrational traditions of the past, Brave New World, everyone living in dormitories and eating exactly 2000 calories of Standardized Food Product (TM) per day, anything that is For Your Own Good, gleaming modernist skyscrapers, The X Of The Future, complaints that the unenlightened masses are resisting The X Of The Future, demands that if the unenlightened masses reject The X Of The Future they must be re-educated For Their Own Good, and (of course) evenly-spaced rectangular grids. ...
He [Jim Scott] admits that the organic livable cities of old had life expectancies in the forties because nobody got any light or fresh air and they were all packed together with no sewers and so everyone just died of cholera. He admits that at some point agricultural productivity multiplied by like a thousand times and the Green Revolution saved millions of lives and all that, and probably that has something to do with scientific farming methods and rectangular grids. He admits that it’s pretty convenient having a unit of measurement that local lords can’t change whenever they feel like it. Even modern timber farms seem pretty successful. After all those admissions, it’s kind of hard to see what’s left of his case. ... Authoritarianism is bad? Destroying civil society is bad? You shouldn’t do things when you have no idea what you’re doing and all you’ve got to go on is your rectangle fetish?"
Taylor summarizes a report on the Indian economy. Tidbits:
The female contribution to India’s GDP is 17 percent, amongst the lowest in the world, and less than half the global female share of GDP at 37 percent.
Despite the expansion of school infrastructure, learning isn’t happening: only 25% of children in Class 5 and 46.8% in Class 8 could read simple English sentence; only 10 percent of new graduates and 25 percent of graduates of engineering and MBA programs had adequate skills to be employable.
“Despite India’s large population, the country’s income tax base is comparable to that of a small European country. In 2012–2013 there were just 31.19 million assessees.”
When it comes to per capita GDP, India ranks 150th among the countries of the world, at a level similar to Nigeria and Congo.
Jonathan Parker, quoted by Tim Taylor:
“"[I]n work with Annette Vissing-Jorgensen we have looked at how the labor income of high-income households has changed significantly. What we zoomed in on is that high-income households used to live a relatively quiet life in the sense that the top 1 percent would earn a relatively stable income, more stable than the average income. When the average income dropped by 1 percent, the incomes of the top 1 percent would drop by about only six-tenths of a percent. In the early 1980s that switched, so that in a recession if aggregate income dropped by 1 percent, the incomes of the top 1 percent dropped more like 2.5 percent — quadrupling the previous cyclicality. So now they're much more exposed to aggregate fluctuations than the typical income.
We also show that decade by decade, as the top income share increased, so did its exposure to the business cycle in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. And as you go further and further up the income distribution, that top share — not just the top 1 percent, but the top 10th of a percent, and the top 100th of a percent — there's also been a bigger increase in inequality and a bigger increase in the exposure to the business cycle. …
We do know that increased cyclicality in income among high earners can't come simply from the financial sector. That sector just isn't quantitatively big enough, and you see the increase in earnings share and in cyclicality across industries and occupations.”
Parker also notes that the BLS is considering abandoning the panel dimension of the Consumer Expenditure Survey.
In the NYRB, Ken Roth reviews Rosa Brooks: "The decision to treat 9/11 as an act of war rather than a horrible crime was a policy choice." ... "In war, opposing combatants can be targeted and killed by virtue of their status as combatants, without regard to their conduct at that moment. Captured combatants in wars between countries can be detained without charge or trial until the end of the armed conflict. In peacetime, by contrast, law enforcement rules allow the use of lethal force only as a last resort to stop an imminent lethal threat, and detentions generally can be sustained only after charges have been filed and a trial has taken place."
Including this bit: "US soldiers now undertake public health programs, agricultural reform efforts, small business development projects, and training in the rule of law. This expanding mandate has enabled the Pentagon to dramatically increase its budget ... even as austerity eviscerates the budgets of the agencies that traditionally carry out these tasks, such as the State Department and USAID."
And: "problems arise when drones are used in places where the US has not claimed to be at war, such as Yemen or Somalia. If law-enforcement standards are applied in such places, US security officials would still be permitted to use lethal force, but only in exceptional circumstances—when it is the only feasible way to avoid an imminent threat to life. ... Obama accepted these law-enforcement standards for such situations, stating that the United States would use lethal force only against “terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” and even then, only if capture is not possible and there is “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” ... Part of the problem seems to stem from the US government’s elastic definition of a continuing “imminent” threat; its definition allows such a threat to be established regardless of how soon an alleged planned attack might take place. ... It is as if the law-enforcement rules articulated by Obama have reverted back to war rules."
"To make matters worse, even though it is unclear how the US government even makes such determinations, it sometimes seems to treat mere association with a suspect as evidence of membership in a terrorist group. That expands the range of targetable people still further." ...
"Unintended civilian casualties are not the issue. Regardless of the rules applied, the US government has a strong incentive to avoid such casualties. ... Rather, the central issue is who can be deliberately targeted. Who is the intended victim, and on what grounds?"
About the US decision to ban laptops on flights on muslim airlines, Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman write:
"This can be understood as a variant form of “weaponized interdependence.” We live in an interdependent world, where global networks span across countries, creating enormous benefits, but also great disparities of power. As networks grow, they tend to concentrate both influence and vulnerability in a few key locations, creating enormous opportunities for states, regulators and non-state actors who have leverage over those locations. In this context, the United States is plausibly leveraging its control over access to U.S. airports, which are central “nodes” in the global network of air travel between different destinations. It is using this control to attack the key vulnerabilities of other networked actors, by going after the central nodes in their networks (the hub airports) and potentially severely damaging them."
Drawing on Cas Mudde’s work, The Atlantic writes:
"The inconclusive results suggest that the most significant trend in Western democracies at the moment might not be the rise and fall of populist nationalism. Instead, it is arguably the disintegration of political parties. The story here is less about which specific type of politician people want to be represented by than about a crisis of democratic representation altogether. … what’s new is that the major mainstream parties aren’t so major anymore, and the minor fringe parties are no longer irrelevant. …
The United States is experiencing many of the same “inputs into the system” that European countries are, according to Best. The country’s two major parties are institutionally weak, and a growing number of Americans are identifying as political independents. American democracy is beset by political polarization and distrust of political institutions."
And: “If the United States had been transported into the Dutch political system, Best said, the result of last year’s U.S. election would likely have mirrored the Dutch result: “the second-largest party [would have been] a radical right-wing populist party.”"
Peter Beinart at The Atlantic writes:
"When cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. ...
The least religiously affiliated white Democrats—like the least religiously affiliated white Republicans—were the ones most likely to back candidates promising revolutionary change. ...
Although African Americans remain more likely than whites to attend church, religious disengagement is growing in the black community. African Americans under the age of 30 are three times as likely to eschew a religious affiliation as African Americans over 50. This shift is crucial to understanding Black Lives Matter."
Christopher Caldwell, writing for the Institute on Religion and Public Life:
"The drug sets an addictive trap that is sinister and subtle. It provides a euphoria—a feeling of contentment, simplification, and release—which users swear has no equal. Users quickly develop a tolerance, requiring higher and higher amounts to get the same effect. The dosage required to attain the feeling the user originally experienced rises until it is higher than the dosage that will kill him. ... Approaching the euphoria he longs for requires walking up to the gates of death. If a heroin addict sees on the news that a user or two has died from an overly strong batch of heroin in some housing project somewhere, his first thought is, “Where is that? That’s the stuff I want.”
Tolerance ebbs as fast as it rises. The most dangerous day for a junkie is not the day he gets arrested, although the withdrawal symptoms … are painful and embarrassing. The dangerous day comes when the addict is released, for the dosage he had taken comfortably until his arrest two weeks ago may now be enough to kill him. ...
The calamity of the 1990s opioid revolution is not so much that it turned real pain patients into junkies—although that did happen. The calamity is that a broad regulatory and cultural shift released a massive quantity of addictive drugs into the public at large. Once widely available, the supply “found” people susceptible to addiction."
And: “Most of Purdue’s revenues still come from OxyContin. In 2015, the Sackler family, the company’s sole owners, suddenly appeared at number sixteen on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s richest families.”
Admittedly, this is pretty lazy thinking / a whole lot of mood-affiliation: bad thing Y (public health catastrophe of unseen proportions) is associated with bad thing X (evil capitalists getting even richer), hence it must be true that X -> Y. Sometimes, it’s hard to escape lazy thinking.
Also: “When we say heroin, we increasingly mean fentanyl. … Fentanyl in its usual form is about fifty times as strong as street heroin. But there are many different kinds of fentanyl, so the wallop it packs is not just strong but unpredictable. … China manufactures a good deal of the fentanyl that comes to the U.S. …
The dealers responsible for cutting it by a factor of fifty are unlikely to be trained pharmacists. ... It takes considerable skill to distribute the chemicals evenly throughout a package of drugs. Since a shot of heroin involves only the tiniest little pinch of the substance, you might tap into a part of the baggie that is all cutting agent, no drug—in which case you won’t get high. On the other hand, you could get a fentanyl-intensive pinch—in which case you will be found dead soon thereafter with the needle still sticking out of your arm. This is why fentanyl-linked deaths are, in some states, multiplying year on year. ...
Some neighborhood bodegas—the addicts know which ones—will pay 50 cents on the dollar for anything stolen from CVS. That is why razor blades, printer cartridges, and other expensive portable items are now kept under lock and key where you shop.
The population of addicts is like the population of deer. It is highest in rustic places with access to urban supplies. Missouri’s heroin problem is worst in the rural counties near St. Louis. New Hampshire’s is worst in the small cities and towns an hour or so away from the drug markets of Massachusetts: Lawrence, Lowell, and Boston. ...
A heroin scourge in America’s housing projects coincided with a wave of heroin-addicted soldiers brought back from Vietnam, with a cost peaking between 1973 and 1975 at 1.5 overdose deaths per 100,000. The Nixon White House panicked. ... The crack epidemic of the mid- to late 1980s was worse, with a death rate reaching almost two per 100,000. George H. W. Bush declared war on drugs. The present opioid epidemic is killing 10.3 people per 100,000, and that is without the fentanyl-impacted statistics from 2016. In some states it is far worse: over thirty per 100,000 in New Hampshire and over forty in West Virginia."
Sen. Rand Paul:
"The way it works is, the FISA court, through Section 702, wiretaps foreigners and then [NSA] listens to Americans. It is a backdoor search of Americans. And because they have so much data, they can tap — type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls.
And so they did this to President Obama. They — 1,227 times eavesdrops on President Obama’s phone calls. Then they mask him. But here is the problem. And General Hayden said this the other day. He said even low-level employees can unmask the caller. That is probably what happened to Flynn.
They are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners. But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans."
Glenn Greenwald adds: "government officials — including President Obama — constantly deceived (and still deceive) the public by falsely telling them that their communications cannot be monitored without a warrant."
NY Times covers new research by David Autor, Larry Katz et al:
"The researchers examined six industries that account for 80 percent of private employment in the United States. In each one, they discovered “a remarkably consistent upward trend in concentration.” In manufacturing, for instance, the top four companies controlled 43 percent of sales in 2012, up from 38 percent in 1982. In finance, the figure grew to 35 percent, from 24 percent, and in retail trade it went to 30 percent, from 15 percent. The faster concentration grew, the bigger the drop in labor’s share."
In a profile of Reggie Foster, the pope's ex-Latinist:
"Foster had first arrived in Rome in 1962, the year the Second Vatican Council opened. The entire Council was conducted in Latin: speeches, debates, drafting and editing and finalizing documents, everything was in Latin. “In those days they would play games where one bishop would recite a line of Vergil and the next guy had to give the next line and on they would go, until someone couldn’t remember a line." …
Many if not most of the people who went through Foster’s classes were Latin teachers when they got there, or became Latin teachers later. ... That has had a ripple effect through the entire discipline."
Rick Perlstein quotes Dan Davies' best sentence:
If there were such a thing as an innate, inborn, inherent quantum of cognitive ability, and we could agree on who possessed it, why should we grant it moral value? After all, every child knows you don’t judge someone’s worth by their appearance. Why should we just because they’re “smart”?
The experience of history suggests we shouldn’t even grant intelligence much in the way of utilitarian value. In a 2007 Guardian essay, Daniel Davies writes, “as far as I can tell, the career trajectories of nearly everyone commonly regarded as a ‘genius’ seem to be marked by one boneheaded blunder after another.” He cites former Harvard president and economics wizard Lawrence Summers, and observes, “Being extremely intelligent is rather like fucking sheep—once you’ve got a reputation for either, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of it.”