The Daily View: 1/17/2016 (lots of stuff)

From Fred Reed: The Inevitability of Eugenics

I predict within 50 years America will start giving Eugenics a serious consideration as a way to tackle the growing entitlement spending problem, which by then will be much bigger than it is now if trends persist. Liberals and conservative alike need to get over this squeamishness of genetic engineering, which like masonry or computers, is a tool that can be used to improve society. A hammer can break but it can also build.

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Jim and XS have some thoughts on bitcoin.

As some may already know, I have been a Bitcoin optimist for awhile, here and here for example, as well as an investor in the cryptocurrency.

I’ll believe there’s a crisis when the price crashes and doesn’t recover; until then, ‘coin on’. One thing I’ve learned from following bitcoin over the past three years is that everyone has their ‘theory’ for why it will fail, and all have been shown wrong. Bitcoin just keeps coming back, rising like a Phoenix from every adversity thrown at it. The FBI seizure of Silk Road didn’t stop it, neither did price crashes in 2011, 2013 and 2014, or the failure of Mt. Gox in 2014. Now Bitcoin is booming because because of China. Wealthy Chinese are using Bitcoin to circumvent capital controls. As China’s economy slows and in anticipation of a falling Yuan, the wealthy are looking for anywhere to park their money.

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The internet has made defensive writers of us all

Perhaps ‘defense writing’ has become so commonplace nowadays because there is less tolerance at both the individual and societal level for mistakes than in the past. In an era where an abundance of information can be found instantly online for free, ignorance has become inexcusable. With the government spending tens of billion of dollars a year on public education, no one should be ignorant, and ignorance is seen as both a personal failure as well as an institutional or societal one. This dates back to the ‘enlightenment’ ideals of centuries ago, when we expected science and reason to explain everything, and that still carries on today. Failure or ignorance is seen as un-enlightenment. But the problem is the majority of people are simply not smart enough to benefit much from mass education, forgetting much of what is learned beyond the basics of reading and writing, rudimentary history and geography, and some math.

Also, thanks to the internet and other factors, we’re in an era of fact checking, which means writers have to be especially assiduous to buttress against all possible holes that can be poked into their thesis. Hedging means being open the possibility of being wrong, so instead having to create a thesis that is impervious to factual criticism, just use verbal disclaimers in the form of hedging language so that you’re covered.

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More American exceptionalism: Cancer survival rates higher in USA than UK

Long wait times, scarcity of drugs for NHS patients, and poor screening regimens may be to blame.

Related:

Some Thoughts on Healthcare
Universal Healthcare Not So Great
Affordable Housing, Healthcare, & Tuition: Putting Things in Perspective

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From Social Matter: Unless You’re An Atom, Principled Libertarianism Is Not For You

This invokes the slippy slope argument: what if instead of a plumber it’s a butter churn business and now technology has made churns nearly obsolete. Should the government ban automated churners to save his business too? Cheaper plumbing (and cheaper butter production) means more people can afford plumbing and butter, which boosts standards of living. 100 years ago, automobiles were a luxury item; now they are everywhere, thanks to globalization, free market capitalism, and other factors. That’s the free market argument, but it does not take into account the individual who may lose his job when technology becomes obsoleted, or his job is replaced by someone who can do it cheaper. New technologies and markets create new jobs, replacing the lost ones, although there is no guarantee the Luddite Fallacy or Lump of Labor Fallacy must remain fallacies.

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Hmm…but private investment has risen substacially over the past six years:

Dividends are worse than buybacks, due to tax issues and other inefficiencies, but no one attacks dividends. Somehow buybacks have become the scourge of the left.

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The Trouble With Fascism

Kinda, but fascism is predicated on race whereas communism is predicted on class, the later which is obviously leftist. Fascism means maybe some government control over certain industries,but it’s not leftist like Marxism, which has more control over businesses, to the point of almost total confiscation of private property.

On a somewhat related note, the problem with populism is that it tends to promote bad policy (particularly economic policy) for the sake of getting votes by exploiting the fears and ignorance of the masses (especially about economics), which is one of the fundamental flaws of democracy. In that regard, both left-populism and right-populism may be the different sides of the same coin. For example, many on the right support low taxes, but it’s less realistic promise both a smaller deficit and lower taxes, but republicans have to promise both to get elected.

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Everyday Economics: The Rise and Fall of the Chinese Economy

Am I the only one who is still on the fence about China? It’s too early to say there is actually a mess. There is evidence maybe growth is glowing, but it’s far too early to call it a catastrophe, even though the doom and gloom media has been calling it one for the past year. The debate is over 7% GDP growth vs. 5.5%.

The Rise and Fall of the Chinese Economy.

If by ‘fall’ he means 5.5% GDP growth instead of 7%. Alos, low oil prices should help China as well as other Asian economies.

Maybe a lot of this doom and gloom comes down to a a simple math misunderstanding, which is that ‘slowing growth’ is not the same as shrinkage. Slowing growth implies the second derivative is negative, but the first one is still positive, meaning the size of the economy is still expanding. An example is the function ln(1+x)

Rather, his video does a good job of explaining what could go wrong, but I’m not sold on the idea that there’s a crisis now. I would not be surprised if this blows over in a a couple months like it did in the past during past concerns over China.

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The Handicap of a High IQ (Guest Writer Matt Baldoni)

He’s probably right on all accounts, but take issue with this:


Okay, more good science, kids! There is a negative correlation between involvement in organized religion and IQ numbers. Dumb people go to church, basically. Smart people don’t.

I’ve heard this argument, but I’m not buying it, and its not like the correlation between IQ and religiosity is incontrovertible. No one really knows. This is similar to the leftist ‘knuckle dragging’ stereotype of Conservatives, which by my own empirical observations is also false. Liberals, particularly welfare liberals, are prone to reductionism and oversimplification more so than Conservatives. This is due to tribe mentality, as well well as general ignorance of complicated issues.

Maybe offline this is the case, but online some of the smartest, well-written people I’ve encountered are religious and or identify as Christian – blogs and writers like Free Northerner, Vox Day, Bruce Charlton, Nick B. Steves, Mark Citadel, Zippy, WM Briggs, and more. It’s many avowed atheists, people who watch Colbert or Daily Show, who seem dull and conformist.

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Interest Rates, Unicorns And What The Fed Means To Silicon Valley

Low interest rates helps America’s best and brightest innovate and create wealth, and is an example of pragmatic/utilitarian/consequentialist polity that helps the ‘greater good’ even if such policy is unpopular with a lot of people. TARP, QE, and ZIRP were ‘lifelines’ for America’s most productive, as a way of containing or mitigating the the damage from the weak, inept sectors (banking, housing) so that the healthier portions could thrive. It was a success, with TARP three years later returning a profit to the treasury, and the economy & stock market now in its sixth year of expansion. Although the private sector and the consumer deserve most of the credit, TARP helped too.

A common argument is that low interest rates create bubbles, but the end result is still better than if bubbles are never formed. Risk taking is necessary for an economy to grow technologically and not become stagnant.

Second, compounding this run up in asset prices is the appreciation of the dollar on the global currency markets. Because the world was anticipating an increase in U.S. interest rates, the value of the dollar has been increasing for the past two years, since the Fed started signaling that it would eventually raise rates.

This is due to the ‘flight to safety’ and the insatiable demand for safe, low yielding US debt. The dollar is so strong not only because of the flight to safety, but because foreign countries that don’t have reserve currency status are running up deficits to try to grow their economies. Other reason are given here.

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