Keeping up with the FITs, 6/22
Tyler Cowen and Marc Andreessen; A NatCon manifesto; Ed West's links; Emily Oster and Shalinee Sharma; Greg Mankiw on the proposed gas tax holiday;
Interviewed by Tyler Cowen, Marc Andreessen says,
Should the home really be two parents and a couple of kids? Or should the home really be, again, a back to the future thing? Should it be three or four generations of people and a lot of cousins and aunts and uncles, and then a lot of kids running around?
He argues that with remote work, children don’t have to move away from parents. So is the future back to the shtetl?
He dismisses fears of artificial intelligence.
what is AI? It’s math. It’s basically elaborations on linear algebra. I have a hard time getting worked up about linear algebra. It’s math. We’ll be able to keep the math under control.
The NatCon folks have written a manifesto. Political manifestos are like corporate mission statements, in that they are rarely bold.
We note that Western nations have benefited from both liberal and restrictive immigration policies at various times. We call for much more restrictive policies until these countries summon the wit to establish more balanced, productive, and assimilationist policies.
I don’t see this as bold. It just fits with the civilization-barbarism axis and not with the oppressor-oppressed axis.
I once heard that a corporate mission statement is only memorable if it is clear about what the organization will not do. In that sense, the NatCon principles are not particularly memorable.
Ed West links to various articles. On the Nellie Bowles piece on San Francisco, he comments,
NIMBYism cripples the city, but in my view crime has a huge impact on this issue, too. If you lived in a city, and country, where incivility was so tolerated, why would you want a housing project on your doorstep rather than a pretty, but absurdly useless and wasteful, farm? Successful countries live on trust.
He finds this interview with Charles Fain Lehman, which I had not seen.
I tend to think the view that one of the ways that Judaism is distinguished from Christianity is the primacy of justice in the former, compared to the primacy of mercy in the latter. To the Christian, everyone is a sinner, and so the differences between me and the death row prisoner are ontologically trivial. (A view like this I think motivates someone like the Atlantic's Liz Bruenig, whom I credit as one of the few honest death penalty opponents, even as I disagree with her.) Judaism, by contrast, is fundamentally a religion of law
But if there is an inherent conservatism in Judaism, why are Jews so overwhelmingly progressive? I think that it is because the Exodus story is so essential to Judaism, and it is an oppressor-oppressed story.
you receive this story where basically either Nixon or Reagan took office, then racistly decided we had to lock up all the black people and so did the "War on Drugs" (whatever that means). Of course, what actually happened was that starting in the mid-1960s, crime rose more or less unabated for 30 years, until a combination of population change (the Baby Boomers got old), mass incarceration, better policing, and community organizing finally pushed it down.
I think the woke program is pretty straightforward. Society is composed of groups, those groups are in conflict, one of those groups has more power than the other groups for historically contingent reasons, the best way to resolve that conflict is to work toward intergroup equality, and laws and actions should be evaluated in relation to how they resolve that conflict.
Emily Oster interviews Shalinee Sharma, who talks about a comparison of post-COVID fifth graders who were rushed into 5th-grade math with those who were given intense reviews of 4th-grade math.
what was shocking is the fifth-grade students, the students who did mostly fifth-grade content, they struggled less. So they threw up fewer struggle alerts on our platform. When a student is struggling, an alert hits the teacher, and those students threw up fewer alerts. So somehow doing the fifth-grade content and only getting presented with help when they didn’t understand it was easier for the children to work through than redoing swaths of fourth grade that they had experienced the year before, but it didn’t make sense then, doesn’t make sense now.
My econ professor, Bernie Saffran, used to say that learning is a function of calendar time, not just time spent studying. And there is also the Null Hypothesis. Both would suggest that you don’t need to make up for time missed studying 4th-grade math. Catch-up will just happen.
News reports say the President Biden may propose a temporary reduction in the gasoline tax, and Secretary Yellen over the weekend said the idea is "worth considering." I would say the idea is worth rejecting
Et tu, Secretary Yellen? Shows what kind of person with economic credentials gets power. You have to be willing to publicly disown basic economic knowledge.
Re: Judaism and progressivism. The Exodus story is both foundational, as you point out, but also tragically prophetic of the long history of persecution, anti-semitism, and marginalization of Jewish communities.
Consequently, we have a hard earned, atavistic sympathy for the plight of any group that is subject to prejudice based on ethnicity.
There has risen, however, a divide in political leanings between orthodox and non-orthodox Jews with the orthodox population becoming much more conservative/Republican. That's a complex phenomenon involving Israel most prominently.
> Judaism, by contrast, is fundamentally a religion of law
This may be true in practice, but that isn't necessarily reflected in the scriptures of the respective religions. If you look through all of the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) virtually nothing Jesus says is original. Especially in the prophets, you see a lot of emphasis on mercy, repentance, valuing virtue and intent above mere religious ceremony.
Further, there is plenty of emphasis on law and justice in the New Testament (Gospels and the Epistles). Jesus Himself says "I come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it". It is in fact God's justice that necessitates we repent and seek forgiveness. Unrepentant sin is not forgiven. We see the consequence of unrepentant sin on full display in the book of Revelation.
> the best way to resolve that conflict is to work toward intergroup equality, and laws and actions should be evaluated in relation to how they resolve that conflict.
The problem is that no two groups have ever been equal, and conflict is exacerbated by those in the woke program by their assumption that oppression is the only possible cause of those inequalities. The truth, as Thomas Sowell points out in his book *Discrimination and Despairities* is that inequalities exist for a whole host of reasons.
Putting on my mind reading cap for the moment, it's not obvious to me that the woke movement actually wants to resolve the conflict. It seems rather more the case they actually want to promote conflict by stoking resentment and envy, in the hopes that it will result in a revolutionary, pseudo-Marxist political order.
I'm not purely mind-reading here: there are plenty of source texts of the social justice movement which state this as an explicit goal.