Keeping up with the FITs, 5/11
Joel Kotkin, data hound; Razib Khan on Pastoral Nomads; Nathan Goodman on failure in the government market; Richard Hanania and Philippe Lemoine on Twitter; Barry Weingast on violence and politics;
Joel Kotkin writes,
A recent survey found that the number of Americans moving from their home regions is at its highest level on record. The highest percentages of home-buyers leaving are from prime ‘superstar’ cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Seattle and Boston.
. . .according to new research, more than half of workers in San Francisco do not want to return to the office, the highest percentage of any big city, followed by large percentages in New York and Los Angeles. In March, a review of key-card swipes found that barely a third of employees are back on a regular basis.
He has sniffed out interesting data, but some of it does not smell right to me. It turns out that the survey about mobility is by Redfin, and they only have data back to 2017, so “highest level on record” sounds a bit more dramatic than is warranted. If mobility is truly on an upward trend, that is big news.
nomadic pastoralists put a particular demographic in the driver’s seat: groups of young men shaped, bonded and tempered by their experiences both protecting their tribe’s wealth from enemies and plundering that of others. Collective acts of shocking and transgressive violence were traditionally the fires that kindled into existence these young men’s cohesion and ferocity, and thus the culture that they subsequently shaped.
. . .and just like Comanche Indian braves 4,000 years later, they abducted local women to bear their sons whenever they wished.
And note that in Razib’s latest list of “thought recommendations,” all point to substack, none to Twitter. Take that, Tyler.
Even when voters do know about a political action they find unacceptable or upsetting, their ability to offer feedback by voting is still limited. One reason for this is that in most elections issues are bundled. When you vote for a presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, or mayoral candidate, you are not voting in a referendum on any specific policy issue. Instead, you are voting to elect a politician, who will then have increased power to act on all their policy preferences.
In the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced, I point out another way that bundling distorts the market for government services. Your local government bundles together law enforcement, property zoning, schools, and other services. There is no way to opt out of the services that you do not like, or to go with alternative providers. The Tiebout hypothesis, which claims that people move to get the mix of governments services that they want, falls apart because of this market failure (among other reasons).
Talking with Richard Hanania, Philippe Lemoine says,
Social media and Twitter are a lot of things, but I think one thing they are is a way for people who don’t have a lot of institutional resources to make up for a lack of institutional resources. It’s a way of multiplying your influence when you lack those resources. If you do it right, if you produce content that’s actually interesting, you can actually use it that way. You can actually get influence that you wouldn’t have otherwise. You can also get influence by doing stupid stuff, by being a troll and stuff. But this shouldn’t make us forget the other side.
…For instance, you write something, you post it. You get immediate feedback from people who are experts about this thing. Immediately people will give you references of other papers that are relevant to what you’re discussing. Whenever a new paper comes out it’s going to be instantly discussed and you’re much more likely to know about it right away. The speed at which relevant information is being transmitted has been increased by a lot by this stuff.
But you could have done the same thing in the blogosphere. Today you could do it on Substack. Twitter happens to be focal. It ended up being a central place for academics to post ideas and for journalists to offer takes, even though it is far from optimal for doing that. I won’t go as far as Jonathan Haidt, but I do think that the net effect of Twitter, subtracting the damage it causes from the benefit it provides, is strongly negative.
The Podcast Browser recently linked to a Barry Weingast interview from a few years ago. He emphasizes (e.g., around minute 14) that democracy does not solve the problem of political violence. If the stakes involved in an election are too high, because the power one side has when in control of government is too great, then the loser of an election will be motivated to fight. Seems relevant these days.
On Joel Kotkin: I *hear* things like this, about people abandoning San Francisco and the Bay Area, and about people refusing to return to the office.
But then I live in the Bay Area and I *see* things like home prices going up 18% YoY and increasingly heavy traffic every morning to my office (as I go into “in-person” work!). I also hear my friends getting back into the swing of in-person meetings, travel, etc., and enjoying the re-socialization.
California obviously has issues. I wouldn’t tell my kids to move here after college. And I don’t deny there’s something going on that Kotkin is putting his finger on. But the facts on the ground do not completely support his narrative.
I don’t have a great counter-narrative. The best I can come up with is that Silicon Valley is becoming a sort of “c-suite” for companies, with the highest paying jobs at the most-profitable companies sitting here, with the lower paying jobs pushed to remote. I suspect people would cry foul at that characterization (i.e., those who’ve moved to Austin after going remote). I also suspect there will be a point in time when companies start applying their regional salary adjustments more vigorously. Those salary adjustments don’t just say “do the same job in different places, get different dollars”. They shape the type of jobs and responsibilities that occur in each place. The higher salaries confer higher status, irrespective of what goes out the other side in taxes and cost-of-living, and people want status. (Especially in Silicon Valley companies…)
Regardless, the next two or three years will be interesting, as we see the pandemic’s lasting effect on people’s lifestyles. It will be different than what came before, I’m sure. I also suspect it will be different than what anyone is quite able to perceive right now.
“But you could have done the same thing in the blogosphere”
I don’t think so. The thing about Twitter is if I reply to Mr Big Shot he feels compelled to reply back, particularly if my critique gets a lot of attention. The blogosphere might work like that too but the time it takes to compose a post and put it up makes it less likely. And if me and Mr Big Shot get into an argument in the blogosphere, it’s happening at a blog people might or might not visit, instead of in the town square. This makes it harder to let insults and critiques go unanswered. Plus I’m critiquing a lot more stuff on Twitter because of how low effort it is. Which sounds bad but I think there’s a lot of dumb stuff out there that deserves to be attacked and I wouldn’t have the time to write a blog post about everything. Twitter is instant gratification/psychological harm, so it pulls people in like nothing else.