Sunday, October 24, 2010

Are you part of the New Elite? Take Charles Murray's simple and easy quiz:
Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows -- "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven't any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they've never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.

Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.

They can talk about books endlessly, but they've never read a "Left Behind" novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans).

They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn't be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.

There so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced. They probably haven't ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or lived for at least a year in a small town (college doesn't count) or in an urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees (gentrifying neighborhoods don't count). They are unlikely to have spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (graduate school doesn't count) or to have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian. They are unlikely to have even visited a factory floor, let alone worked on one.

There's actually the potential for some science lurking here. Would a poll that went through Murray's list of shibboleths reject the null hypothesis of a Bell Curve of scores by having fat tails or even a bimodal distribution?

Update: Yglesias is also unimpressed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yes, set theory often feels like "advanced alien technology." Maybe that's why I like it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Think Again: Global Aging, by Phillip Longman. Lots of good stuff here.

A few excerpts:

In Brazil, television was introduced sequentially province by province, and in each new region the boob tube reached, birth rates plummeted soon after.
According to a recent Rand Corp. study published in Health Affairs, more than 40 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 already have difficulties performing ordinary activities of daily life, such as walking a quarter mile or climbing 10 steps without resting -- a substantial rise from just 10 years ago.
But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road... countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood.
So is there a third way? Yes, though we aren't quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden...
Presumably, at some level of subsidy, i.e., further down the Swedish road, babies become a financial asset. But how many tax increases will voters support? (And perhaps young singles will have to be given tax breaks, so that they'll feel sufficiently economically secure to couple up and make babies.)

It's hard for me to expect a demographic "soft landing" for the world, especially after reading this book which surveyed the hard landings of Greece and then Rome.

(Nevertheless, I can at least imagine an equilibrium where groups with traditional values make most of the babies, but a fraction of their people are constantly being "corrupted" so as to keep both the traditional and non-traditional populations from ever getting too small (whatever "too small" means). However, I don't see why this equilibrium would be stable. Such a conjecture is very speculative in any case. Indeed, I haven't even considered the effect of potential new technologies (better genetic testing, genetic engineering, better anti-aging medicine, etc)!)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Against the ARC. Just because it's big and sounds good, doesn't mean it is good. This is not an isolated phenomenon.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Buy equities for the long run. I would add, don't forget to diversify internationally.
Math NAEP scores. Compare historical progress for Ages 9 and 13 to lack of progress at age 17.
Would you rather be happy or absorbed?
Ashwin Parameswaran argues that "too big to fail" ultimately benefits hedge funds (which are small by comparison). Reihan Salam has related comments on taxing the income/capital gains of hedge fund managers.

Friday, October 01, 2010

How not to do a linear regression: Include a single outlier called Luxembourg. A better way would be to perform a weighted regression using the national populations for weights. Visualize the weighting with bigger dots for bigger populations.