Monday, March 31, 2008

Posts I like

A while back I suggested that we should expect a rich country with high levels of immigration to have higher levels of poverty and inequality than countries that don't. This creates pretty perverse incentives; a country can look like it does better by the poor simply by keeping immigrants out. Anyway, hero economist Lant Pritchett has suggested checking out GDP per "natural" (people born in a country) in addition to GDP per capita. America does the best which doesn't surprise me....

Robin Hanson has a post arguing against keeping up with the news. I've watched too much CNN, Sky News and BBC recently, and it sucks, so much. The point of these networks is that they have news gathering resources that useless bloggers lack. Yet they run the same 3 stories all day, as though that was the only interesting or important stuff going on. You can get way more depth, breadth and balance from 20 minutes online. Besides, half the interesting footage comes from camera phones these days, YouTube will do just as well....

I'm continually amazed that Marx doesn't just remain popular, but that people are not more impressed by the difficulty of doing what Marx really intended. Here's a paraphrased exchange

“You studied philosophy?” I ask, just making conversation.

“A little… but you wouldn’t find me spending $35 on this,” he scoffs. (Well, that much is right: It would’ve been cheaper on Amazon even after shipping.)

“Oh?” I reply, “What do you have against Rawls?” He says something to the effect that it’s necessary to move beyond “utopian liberalism” propped up by “fantasy scenarios” and develop more “pragmatic” theories. This strikes me as rather unfair: Whatever his faults, Rawls—especially later Rawls—is not justly characterized as a “utopian,” and to dismiss the Original Position as a “fantasy scenario” rather seems to miss the point—pace Dworkin’s clever quip about hypothetical contracts not being worth the paper they aren’t printed on. Still, I’m intrigued by the unlikely prospect that this Dupont Circle bookshop is employing a conservative or libertarian of some sort. What political philosopher would he suggest we look to for a non-utopian, pragmatic vision?

“Karl Marx.”

Ah. Of course.


Greg Torr said...

I'm sure you'll have noticed (unless you've given up in disgust already) that Taleb is also very anti keeping up with the news.

Greg Torr said...

I followed the link (!), and really enjoyed the post too. I should read his stuff more often.

stuart said...

I'm actually about a third of the way through. I'm enjoying it.

Yip, you should.