Keeping up with the FITs 1/2
Eric Topol vs. CDC; Hanania talks his book; Caplan talks his next book; Razib Khan on SAT tests; Bari Weiss on minds that changed in 2021, including Patrick Collison; Kling; Roberts/McArdle
yesterday I found out that it takes only 3 people https://newsnodes.com/us, led by Gérard Hoeberigs, to post data promptly every day for each US state — including new cases, tests, % positive tests, hospitalizations, ICUs & deaths—and much of this for the rest of the world. But CDC has an annual budget that exceeds $7.9 billion and cannot do this.
I’m at the point where I put the CDC in the same category as the United Nations. Get the U.S. out of the CDC and the CDC out of the U.S.
there are special interests – mainly foreign governments, the national security bureaucracy, and weapons manufacturers – who shape the discussion. National security journalism depends on government actors for access, and concentrated interests promote and fund ideas that advocate for a more aggressive posture abroad. This helps explain why foreign policy analysis in the US is often so bad; the marketplace of ideas is tilted towards those who benefit from the status quo.
. . .bringing the national security establishment down to earth and making people just as cynical about it as they are about the rest of government, is one of the motivations of the book.
Bryan Caplan probably would argue that people are not nearly cynical enough about the rest of government.
Governments are awful because they give politicians incentives to do bad stuff that sounds good. Since the correlation between what IS good and what SOUNDS good is quite low, this is a huge deal.
I think he means to say that the correlation is negative. He wants suggestions for a book title. The cynic in me would propose “Preaching to the Choir.”
I am sure that Bryan will make rational arguments. And anyone who reads the book who does not already agree with him will respond to those arguments by sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming epithets at him.
As sociologist Randall Collins writes in his book Interaction Ritual Chains,
outside opposition would encourage a stronger sense of membership
To people whose identity is tied closely to their beliefs that markets are bad, Bryan simply represents “outside opposition,” and his book will generate a hostile reaction. I would speculate that changing people’s minds requires something other than logic—it requires changing their identity.
And speaking of cynical, depressing takes, Razib Khan writes
Indeed, tests probably do benefit the privileged…but they benefit the privileged far less than do other things, like recommendations, secondary-school quality, or grade point average. So that’s why high-minded people of privilege want to get rid of them. What’s the downside for them? Why wouldn’t they embrace another great costless gesture that can be packaged as a sop to the least economically privileged… who will most disproportionately bear its significant harms?
But getting rid of SAT tests typifies the sort of policy that Caplan would call bad stuff that sounds good.
There are some people who change their minds. Bari Weiss hosted several, including Patrick Collison, who writes
I’ve changed my mind on the relative marginal value of “talent radar”-style interventions. I still think they’re very valuable on an absolute scale, but now I find myself asking: how do we create cultures that act as long-term achievement trampolines?
On this topic, Randall Collins writes
Successful intellectuals have more network ties to other successful intellectuals than less successful intellectuals. . .important thinkers tend to belong to groups of other thinkers as personal acquaintances. These groups tend to form early in their careers
Think of the Vienna Circle. Or consider rock music in Liverpool/Hamburg in the early 1960s. That culture produced the Beatles and others. Perhaps part of the cultural element is that people are forced to start outside of existing institutions at first. By the time that the Beatles and other Liverpool groups were introduced to London and then the U.S., they had been creating and competing very intensely.
The “British invasion” took pop music by surprise. Maybe there will be a “substack invasion” that takes public intellectual life by surprise.
Finally, David Goodhart’s distinction between “anywheres” and “somewheres” is getting a workout. In a Pairagraph dialog on the future of the nation state, I wrote,
Somewheres feel an emotional attachment to where they live. Anywheres do not. Mr. Pueyo is correct that the rise of Anywheres seems to imply a weakening of the state.
But I would not under-estimate the power of the backlash coming from the Somewheres.
In an Econtalk podcast with Russ Roberts, Megan McArdle says,
I think the pandemic has illustrated that better than anything could, where all of the people who thought that they were--what one British writer called the 'Somewheres versus the Anywheres.' You know: the people who live in one place and stay there versus the people who are constantly mobile and can go anywhere. Well, the Anywheres found themselves trapped somewhere. And, it turned out that national borders mattered a lot more than anything else.
Regarding Razib Khan on abolishing tests, it might be observed that this can also work as a way for the privileged to overcome the competitive advantage of East Asians.
On “somewheres” vs. “anywheres”: This is a take by people who, if they move about, move from blue city to blue city. Out here in rural America people are very wedded to place, and they despise government at all levels, even the local building inspector. It’s specifically the crypto millionaires who are “anywheres.” But the blue elites favor large federal govt. so that they have one set of rules (favorable to themselves) to follow as they migrate to the next blue city.