Keeping up with the FITs, No. 18

ICYMI, my post on Use Your Economics is public; drugs and homelessness; Robert Wright on foreign intervention; corporations intimidated

Use Your Economics! (was accidentally paywalled before. now it’s free)

Russ Roberts interviews Sam Quinones.

Many of these folks, I should say, have transitioned to the street, have become homeless. Because you cannot hold down a job or an apartment, or even live with other people who aren't on meth. If you are wandering around the house at three in the morning, screaming about cheetahs coming out of the wall. Or anything--and, if you have a knife or anything--excuse me, you cannot live with somebody like that.

And they're, as you said, we did not go the next step, after closing the mental institutions, by building community-based housing for folks. There would be three people to a house, four people to a house, instead of 300 or 400 as the institution. And so, we have advocated that role. We left it, frankly, if you ask me, we in a very childish way as a society: we decided, the police are going to handle that. Why? Because they have guns, they're on the job 24/7, and they're all over the city. So, they're going to handle it.

Michael Shellenberger writes,

Rather than arresting hard drug users when they break laws, and giving them the choice of jail or drug treatment, the only strategy proven to work, the city of San Francisco provides addicts with the cash, housing and drug paraphernalia they need to purchase and use deadly drugs. 

FIT superstar Robert Wright makes his case against those who are inclined to be interventionists in foreign affairs.

Blobsters—having divided the world between good guys and bad guys, exaggerated the threat posed by the bad guys, and convinced themselves that America is the best of the good guys—feel that our country is thus justified in intervening in the internal affairs of other nations, if not by the massive application of military force (an option that is less popular even in the Blob than it was 20 years ago) then via subtler military means, or economic coercion, or other tools, sometimes covertly deployed ones. Blobsters are generally protective of American sovereignty but not so respectful of the sovereignty of other countries, especially the ones run by “bad guys” (though, on close examination, the bad guys whose countries we push around turn out to be morally indistinguishable from some bad guys we deem cherished allies). 

This meddling is driven not only by a conviction that we know what’s best for everyone, but that we have the skill to bring it into being—even though the last few decades of history strongly suggest that we don’t and that, in fact, we often make things worse. 

On the other hand, one can wish that we had intervened to prevent genocide: Armenia, the Bolshevik revolution resulting in Stalin’s massacres, the Nazi takeover resulting in Hitler’s massacres, Cambodia, Rwanda. So if threat exaggeration is an error in one direction, there are also errors in the opposite direction. In the long run, is American reluctance to better protect the independence of Hong Kong or Russia’s neighbors going to be seen as a tragic mistake? Hindsight is easier than foresight.

Richard Hanania says that vague anti-discrimination laws force companies to go to extremes to avoid lawsuits.

The Iraqi mukhabarat did not tell you what phrases or words to avoid in order to be left alone. And the government never passed a law saying everyone must worship Saddam. Likewise, civil rights law never explicitly said you have to invite Robin DiAngelo to talk to you about how she has no time for your white woman tears. It just gives you some vague standards, empowers the most sensitive individuals, and creates huge payoffs for attorneys looking for racism along with serious penalties for businesses that fail to guess what will or won’t be declared discriminatory after the fact.

And speaking of corporations on the defensive, Mike Solana writes,

But the difference between what Facebook does and what people do on Facebook is really the heart of this entire discussion, and the conflation of the two is why conversation on this topic has been so difficult. The thing is, we’re not really asking for Facebook to control itself, we’re asking Facebook to control other people.

Bari Weiss talks with Jaron Lanier about social media. Lanier sees problems with centralization of control, use of algorithms, and the “fake free” character of the main platforms as causing problems. I recommend skipping to minute 54, and then listening up until there are two or three minutes left in the podcast.

They talk about a “mean girls” culture that has emerged both on line and off. And at about 1 hour and 11 minutes in Lanier gets into the “fake free” issue. He says that institutions work best when we feel that we have a collectives stake in them, and he thinks that paying a little bit to join helps to foster that.

On Wednesday, Tyler Cowen’s Assorted Links post was one of his best ever. Each was worth following, but I take particular note of J. Stone on The Great Feminization. This includes, for example

There is some overlap between Stone’s post and my own on Warriors/Worriers. I think that these speculations align with the “mean girls” observation in the Bari Weiss podcast with Jaron Lanier.