All linky, no thinky

WordPress is getting marginally — I use the word deliberately — more clever at hiding the good post-composition form in favour of the “easy” shit that makes it hard for me to do what I want.  I have sent in my demand for a full refund.  (“Isn’t this service free?”  Yes, quite.)


In an essay that at least 50% of the population of the Pacific Northwest should read, Megan McArdle argues that

Apparently we’re great relationship material, provided that one is willing to put up with nerdery.  (I suspect that Ms. McArdle’s analysis applies to nerds in general.)  Given the sort of person who comments on McArdle’s articles in general, I suspect that this ‘un’s comment section will go from zero to hilarious in about half an hour.


Next, Eric Crampton takes a kick at the question of whether or not smoking-related lost productivity (ergo income, ergo income tax revenue) counts as an externality:

I’ll quote for you his thought experiment; you should be able to derive the uncomfortable-to-paternalists conclusion from there:

Consider two people, alike in relevant ways at age 10 and equal in earnings potential, but with different utility functions. So they make different choices.

Mr. A decides that the rat race isn’t for him and decides instead to take a part-time job at 20 hours per week instead of 40. Were he to have worked a full time job, his earnings would have doubled and, because of progressive taxation, his tax payments would have more than doubled. But he’s not on welfare; he just can transform relatively little income into a fair bit of happiness because he really likes leisure.

Mr. B does not enjoy sitting idle; he consumes his leisure by smoking while working a full-time job. Associated health issues reduce his productivity and, as consequence, he earns a quarter less than he otherwise would; his tax payments are then perhaps a third lower than they otherwise could have been. Other sources have a lower wage penalty for smoking; we’ll stick with a big one for present purposes.

Substitute in your favourite “but that’s different!” income-nonmaximizing choices (getting a “fun” degree, working at a non-profit, &c.) for Mr. A’s labour force truancy and see how well you stack up against a workaholic smoker.  Probably you should be ashamed of yourself, and paying higher taxes.

(Will Wilkinson made a similar argument in favour of utility maximization a while ago, and P. J. O’Rourke did the same in a convocation speech he gave, but under the “No Thinky” stricture I simply can’t be arsed to look them up.  I’ve blogged about both of them in the past, so if you’re really curious the search widget’s to your right.)


Bryan Caplan notes

1. Suppose you lived in a society with a massive, age-old injustice.  Think slavery.  Are you the kind of person who would staunchly oppose this injustice anyway?

2. Suppose a colorful, feel-good movement advocating a massive, new injustice suddenly became fashionable.  Think communism.  Are you the kind of person who would staunchly oppose this movement anyway?

and suggests that those who are robust against one form of injustice are probably vulnerable to the other.


By way of Andrew Sullivan we find Laura Vanderkam doing what Sully calls “uncovering the contradiction” of self-help books:

Even the most over-the-top books offer a real benefit: they encourage the virtue of self-examination. To read self-help is to take stock of one’s self and to ask what kind of life one wants to lead.

These are profound issues, and what the genre’s critics sometimes miss, too, is that self-help readers are well equipped to explore them. That’s because the people who buy these books are, like all book buyers, “pretty comfortable,” says John Duff of Penguin. “It’s going to be that middle-class person, reasonably well-educated” and in “very rarefied” company, as “our market for all books is really very limited. Most people stop reading when they leave school.” Those who don’t stop probably have their acts together. Call it the paradox of self-help. “The type of person who values self-control and self-improvement is the type of person who would seek more of it in a self-help book,” Whelan says. “So it’s not the unemployed crazy lady sitting on the couch eating potato chips who reads self-help. It’s the educated, affluent, probably fairly successful person who wants to better themselves.”

So it turns out that people who’re interested in self-improvement are already doing pretty well?  As nethack would say, “I see no paradox here”.

I’m reminded of the standup comic who complains about fit people in the gym.  “Quit going to the gym; you’re done.”  Not ’til I squat 600, asshat, and then I’ll just want to squat 605.


Tam does some math — rather, some

and discovers that

The important point is that now we know that in the Inside-The-Beltway mind, Sandy was far more devastating than Katrina, despite the latter killing 1833* to the former’s 113.

This provides us a handy metric for future use: If you live in flyover country, you’re right around 1/16th of a real person to the bicoastal power elite.

You should click through to discover her sources and follow that footnote.  John Richardson follows up in comments:

According to the Constitution, shouldn’t those of us outside the bicoastal power elite be at least 3/5’s of a person?


Finally, have some fuckyeah:

For some people, modifying an existing car isn’t enough, even completely dismantling one and reassembling it 10x better just won’t satisfy them. Oh no, they just have to show off their amazing amount of talent and build a car from scratch, the jerks!

Fabrication porn?  Oh yes.  Better get a towel before you click through.

2 Responses to “All linky, no thinky”

  1. January 10, 2013 at 14:28

    Re the McArdle article, I think it’s the same problem that anyone of any given general ideology has, which is that everyone who is not themselves an asshole self-selects assholes out of their life, and probably most of the people they voluntarily interact with are their flavor of ideology. Therefore they don’t really meet the Them that those of other ideologies are thinking of after They showed up on their doorstep and made a mess. (Likewise, they’re probably not meeting many of the nice and sane folks, because nice sane people don’t show up and impose themselves on others for lulz.)

    In my time hanging out in right-ish and libertarian corners of the interweb, the number of fulminating misogynists who are also self-described libertarians is… higher than I’m happy to admit. I suspect it’s because libertarianism has the same problem with attracting the sort of people who’d like to have a political excuse to be a completely self-involved jerk that social conservatives and leftist have with people who like to have a political excuse to legislate their preferences on others.

    • January 10, 2013 at 18:42

      As I’m sure you’ve noticed, libertarianism also tends to be seen as a friendly “bravely speaking Truth to Power” philosophy by those who think that justifying their misogyny with simple-minded evo-psych is bravely speaking Truth to Power.

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