"One might think that, once we know something is computable, how efficiently it can be computed is a practical question with little further philosophical importance. In this essay, I offer a detailed case that one would be wrong. In particular, I argue that computational complexity theory---the field that studies the resources (such as time, space, and randomness) needed to solve computational problems---leads to new perspectives on the nature of mathematical knowledge, the strong AI debate, computationalism, the problem of logical omniscience, Hume's problem of induction, Goodman's grue riddle, the foundations of quantum mechanics, economic rationality, closed timelike curves, and several other topics of philosophical interest. I end by discussing aspects of complexity theory itself that could benefit from philosophical analysis."
The Austerity Delusion: Why a Bad Idea Won Over the West. "Austerity is a seductive idea because of the simplicity of its core claim -- that you can’t cure debt with more debt. This is true as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Three less obvious factors undermine the simple argument that countries in the red need to stop spending. The first factor is distributional, since the effects of austerity are felt differently across different levels of society. The second factor is compositional; everybody cannot cut their way to growth at the same time. The third factor is logical; the notion that slashing government spending boosts investor confidence does not stand up to scrutiny."
Trials by Ordeal were a method of determining guilt or innocence by putting the accused through various torturous experiences. Today these approaches are frequently-mocked and banned almost everywhere, though Sassywood remains common in Liberia. However, economist Peter Leeson argues that trial by ordeal may have been a very effective way of dispensing justice, especially when courts and juries were expensive or broken. According to the paper [PDF], a superstitious belief in iudicium Dei, or the justice of God, may have discouraged the guilty from ordeals, while tilting the scales in favor of the innocent - echoes of the practice persist today in swearing on a Bible. Even Sassywood [pdf] may be better than Liberia's broken justice system.
Keith Hennessey is a former economic aide to George W. Bush. And he wants you to know that George W. Bush is smarter than you.
"All this gives us one way to understand the Lannister zeal for power in King's Landing. In effect, Tywin is attempting to execute a debt-for-equity swap since his debts aren't actually recoverable. But that simply underscores the extent to which the loans to the Iron Throne are, themselves, worthless as financial assets." Economics of Ice & Fire, Part I and Part II (minor dialogue spoilers for S03E03) [more inside]
"Gold's crash this weekend is, as Oprah might say, a teachable moment. Crashes like this are a good way to find out how markets work. It's like a game of financial Clue, a way to keep sharp your skills of deduction. You don't have to be a stock investor or a math whiz to figure it out, either – you just have to have a good grasp of news and human psychology." - the Guardian on this week's crash in gold commodity prices.
"Trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things that a parent has to do — and in the United States, it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess. About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. Most of them are in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares.... In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian."
"Maybe it's a sore point: your field should have an answer (people think you do) but there isn't one yet. Perhaps it's simple to pose but hard to answer. Or it's a question that belies a deep misunderstanding: the best answer is to question the question."
A dozen ultraleft voluntarists arguing about shower schedules is a noise complaint; 120,000 downwardly mobile yuppies doing it out of necessity is a substratum. The material realities of declining wages, ballooning debt, and skyrocketing rents at the core of the neoliberal city have conspired to herd young people into unprecedentedly dense, poor, and precarious kinds of living arrangements. - Andrew Fogle on how the economic crisis is changing how people live together.
The Locust Economy
I was picking the brain of a restauranteur for insight into things like Groupon. He confirmed what we all understand in the abstract: that these deals are terrible for the businesses that offer them; that they draw in nomadic deal hunters from a vast surrounding region who are unlikely to ever return; that most deal-hunters carefully ensure that they spend just the deal amount or slightly more; that a badly designed offer can bankrupt a small business. He added one little factoid I did not know: offering a Groupon deal is by now so strongly associated with a desperate, dying restaurant that professional food critics tend to write off any restaurant that offers one without even trying it.[more inside]
Recent posts here, here and here discuss a growing sense that climate change is going to be worse than we thought. A link to Charles Stross's musing on a future that included climate change was discussed on MeFi here. But Kim Stanley Robinson asks a slightly different question: If capitalism is the driver of climate change, what happens next? What does post-capitalism look like?
The Forces Of The Next 30 Years - SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks to students at Olin College about sci-fi, fiction, speculation, the limits of computation, thermodynamics, Moore's Law, the history of travel, employment, automation, free trade, demographics, the developing world, privacy, and climate change in trying to answer the question What Does The World Of 2043 Look Like? (Youtube 56:43)
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]
Mike Merrill decided to sell shares in his life. He now has 160 shareholders who can tell him what to do.
seaQuest: what if we could learn to live on/underneath the oceans (or in orbit)? [previously(er)] [more inside]
A paper from Justin M. Rao and David H. Reiley in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (full-text pdf) about spam economics. [more inside]
A brief history of the Chinese growth model [note: not so brief] - "the Chinese development model is an old one, and can trace its roots at least as far back as the 'American System' of the 1820s and 1830s. This 'system' was itself based primarily on the works of the brilliant first US Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton..." [more inside]
And that's a bad idea. Much of standard group behavior data in Sociology/Economics/Psychology is based on Americans. Which don't seem (contrary to universal assumptions) to be shared by a lot of the World.
A Renaissance in Economics The American President Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” I get the same shivers when someone introduces themselves as an economist.
“LEGO® sets are not cheap toys. They are made to the highest standards and have the price to go along with it. However, in the past couple decades it seems that the price of LEGO sets has become outrageous. New sets can sell for up to $500 retail and old sets can sell for twice that in a secondary market. This is a children’s toy, right? There is no way LEGO sets have always been this expensive; it is just molded plastic. Let’s take a look at the history of LEGO pricing and try to figure out what is going on.”
House of Cards is a new original "TV" series that is not destined for any TV distribution channel. Instead, it was developed by, and is only available through, Netflix. Netflix posted the entire first "season," 13 1-hour episodes, on Friday. (Is this the new thing?) Some of us, cough, watched the whole thing. [more inside]
Last week a debate erupted in the US comedy community between stand-up comedians (like Kurt Metzger and Mike Lawrence) and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater about the fact that at none of their three theaters pay any of their performers (including UCBEast in New York, which often has Saturday Night Stand-up shows). Other comics such as Chris Gethard eloquently came to their defense. This week two of the founders Matt Besser and Matt Walsh released an episode of Besser's pocast Improv for Humans that goes into details about the club's philosophy, including why they have never taken any money from founding and running the theater. [more inside]
Yesterday, the Nielsen Company released a report showing that same-sex partnered households in America shop about 16% more than the average US household. Broken down into categories, Nielsen observes that gay couples drink a ton, while lesbian couples eat an awful lot of cottage cheese.
Philip Pilkington writes for naked capitalism: The Origins of Neoliberalism Part I: Hayek's Delusion
Hayek’s entire ideology and career had begun to come apart in the 1930s. His theories were shown to be inconsistent in the academic journals of the time and the practical implications of those theories had shown themselves to be both discredited and dangerous. A man in such a position only has two choices: he can either completely re-evaluate his ideas which, if they were held with unshakeable conviction and constituted a core component of his emotional make-up, as seems to have been the case with Hayek, would have likely resulted in a mental collapse; or, alternatively, he can engage in a massive repression, shut out reality and construct around himself a fantasy world.[more inside]
"We decided to go on an adventure through the financial statements of one bank [Wells Fargo], to explore exactly what they do and do not show, and to gauge whether it is possible to make informed judgments about the risks the bank may be carrying. We chose a bank that is thought to be a conservative financial institution, and an exemplar of what a large modern bank should be."
Stimulus or Stymied?: The Macroeconomics of Recession: An American Economic Association panel discussion on the Great Recession between four leading economists - Paul Krugman (Princeton), Valerie Ramey (UCSD), Harald Uhlig (Chicago) and Carlo Cottarelli (IMF), chaired by Brad DeLong (Berkeley).
Unpacking the Beauty Premium, Borland J & Leigh A, unpub., 2013.
The first Australian study of the financial return to physical attractiveness finds its worth an astounding $32,150 in annual salary, with men of above average looks typically commanding $81,750 compared to $49,600 for men with below-average looks.
Men with below-average looks were 15 per cent less likely than normal to be employed and were typically employed for a 9 per cent lower wage. They were also less likely to be married and less likely to married to a woman of high income.
The full economic impact of Smaug can only be understood by recognizing that the dragon's arrival resulted in a severe monetary shock…
What's Going On In Japan? "Really Japan is quite a remarkable case, since neither fiscal nor monetary policy seems to be working to achieve the anticipated results. This year Japan will have a fiscal deficit of around 10% of GDP and gross government debt will hit 235% of GDP, yet the country is still struggling to find growth. Instead of reiterating old dogmas (whether they come from Keynes or from Hayek) more people should be asking themselves what is happening here. This is not a simple repetition of something which was first time tragedy and is now second time tragedy, it is something new, and could well be a harbinger for more that is to come, elsewhere. Oh, why oh why are economists not more curious?" [more inside]
Research Says: Studying Economics Turns You Into a Liar The researchers ultimately ran their test on 258 students from various majors, including business, economics, the humanities, sciences, law, among others. And there was a clear gap: even though a large portion of students lied from every field, economics and business students lied a much more often than everybody else. As shown in the table below, just 22.8 percent of them honestly reported the colors of the flashing circles, even when it cost them that extra euro. More than half of humanities students, on the other hand, were honest. Same went for law students, who appeared to play against type. (They also claim that the *study* made the difference and not just the type of student that signed up for that kind of study.)
"There are certain novels that can shape a teenage boy's life. For some, it's Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; for others it's Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. As a widely quoted internet meme says, the unrealistic fantasy world portrayed in one of those books can warp a young man's character forever; the other book is about orcs. But for me, of course, it was neither. My Book – the one that has stayed with me for four-and-a-half decades – is Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, written when Asimov was barely out of his teens himself. I didn't grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation." [Paul Krugman: Asimov's Foundation novels grounded my economics]
The Economics of Caring There's something deeply flawed about an economic system that measures utility but not the attachments we feel to another person, or to one's homeland.
There's been a lot of talk in the US media about the "Fiscal Cliff" and the "Grand Bargain" What are they?
The "fiscal cliff" is a confluence of three legal changes taking effect Jan. 1: the expiration of a payroll-tax cut, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and the advent of mandatory spending cuts known as "sequestration."Fiscal Cliff 101: 5 Basic Questions Answered. What's Happening: Fiscal Cliff Explained [more inside]
Bruce Bartlett tells the story of how he lost faith in the Republican Party.
Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England from 1 July 2013. He will succeed Sir Mervyn King. [more inside]
Has politics gone peer-to-peer? A rich 90-minute panel discussion with Steven Johnson, author of "Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked World", featuring Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig.
Who's the Shop Steward on Your Kickstarter? "The true product for sale on Kickstarter is not your art project, but your community and networks. ... Our projects that facilitate the funding are a side effect, a cost of doing business—the business of drilling our relationships for all they are worth."
Are Social Impact Bonds a good way to invest in public services? "Imagine a contract where private investors are paid by the government if there's a decrease in homelessness or convicts re-offending. It's a an idea that's taking shape in the UK and some US states. And now the Canadian government is considering piloting social impact bonds. Critics say it's a way of governments shirking their responsibilities." CBC's "The Current" reports. [more inside]
Perhaps the most fruitful way to look at the debate between Morgenthau and Marshall that was carried on--largely below the surface, largely without explicit confrontation--at the end of WWII is that it was an attempt to figure out how to resolve call it two historical problems: the problem of European military culture, and the problem of modern industrial war. Economist Brad DeLong explains.
The Futurist Magazine along with The World Future Society predicts the future with a list of the top trends and forecasts for 2013 and beyond.
A massive shortage of gas all over New York and New Jersey is fueling hours-long lines stretching blocks or even miles. A big part of the problem has been power shortages to gas stations and refineries. Nevertheless, some argue that laws preventing gas prices from spiking in response to the disaster ("price gouging") are making things much worse, discouraging businesses from staying open in tough conditions and preventing entrepreneurs from profiting from any clever ways of increasing supply. Others admit gouging has some advantages, but still consider it ethically dubious. Gouging seems to be happening informally regardless.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
In the spirit of the Nobel season, Yasha Levine discusses the history of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel as a PR gimmick for laissez-faire economics, and how its existence is an affront to the Nobel legacy.