Links to Consider, 12/30
Lorenzo Warby on Marxism and Wokeism; Razib Khan's book recommendations; Eric Schwitzgebel on wisdom and the academy; Two reviews of "The Myth of American Inequality"
It is only if the status and social leverage strategies are rendered dysfunctional that processes of “wokification” can be halted or reversed. These essays will explore those strategies, and the mechanisms that make them effective, allowing readers to see how to respond usefully.
He is just getting started on a series of essays. Subscribe to her substack to stay on top of them.has a year-end list of must-reads, including his favorite books of all time. also has a year-end list, which includes this blog post by Eric Schwitzgebel.
What is pretty much the least chaotic path through our culture? The academic path. Do what your teachers tell you. Get good grades. Go to graduate school and do it some more. Get a job. Get tenure. It's extremely competitive, but the path is orderly and laid out clearly in advance. Each thing flows neatly from the next. (I set aside the increasingly common chaos of the academic job market.) The set of skills and the range of challenges doesn't change radically over the course of one's life, and there normally are few disruptive conflicts with authority.
You will not grow unless you vary your experience. Staying on campus your whole life does not produce the variance that you need.
I think that staying with the same organization your whole life is a recipe for staleness. I used to say that an organization is like college. After four years, it is time to graduate. Much of what you learn in an organization is about that organization. The organization has only so much it can teach you. There may be good reasons to stick with an organization longer than four years, but you will learn more and grow more if you make a switch.
Reviewing “The Myth of American Inequality,” by Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund and John Early, Charles Calomiris writes,
Real income of the bottom quintile, the authors write, grew more than 681% from 1967 to 2017. The percentage of people living in poverty fell from 32% in 1947 to 15% in 1967 to only 1.1% in 2017. Opportunities created by economic growth, and government-sponsored social programs funded by that growth, produced broadly shared prosperity: 94% of households in 2017 would have been at least as well off as the top quintile in 1967. Bottom-quintile households enjoy the same living standards as middle-quintile households, and on a per capita basis the bottom quintile has a 3% higher income.
Reviewing the same book, David Lewis Schaefer writes,
far from rising by 22.9 percent since 1947 as the Census numbers make it appear, inequality has fallen by 3 percent since 1947. Finally, once all transfers are counted, “the number of Americans living in poverty in 2017 plummets from 12.3 percent, the official Census number, to only 2.5 percent.”
Official statistics measure inequality on a “can’t win” basis. That is, they measure inequality omitting the effects of government taxes and transfers. The same numbers that ignore government redistribution are then cited to show that we need to do more redistribution. As John Cochrane puts it, the redistributionists
create a problem that is immune to its purported solution!
Cochran notes the major problem with his numbers in the text, but then moves on.
A lot of what we give “the poor” is in kind services like medical care, education, housing subsidies, etc. it’s not clear how such subsidies should be valued, but a good case can be made that their value to the recipient is far below cost.
Meanwhile, means testing on these benefits means it’s effectively 100% tax on work.
Let’s imagine a family in a townhouse in Baltimore. They live in a neighborhood with 1/10th the crime and dysfunction. Marriage rates are 5x higher. They work in a factory and they can’t buy as much stuff but if they work an extra shift they keep the money. And anyway tvs we’re going to get cheaper over the last 50 years no matter what. If they have a smart kid he can go to college and afford tuition on a part time job with no debt.
Was that person worse off than someone that sits on a couch all day in front of a big flat screen, probably divorced, listening to gunshots at night, but qualifying for Medicaid to treat their self imposed diabetes?
I grew up in an 800 sqft house. I remember when we could afford an air conditioner. But it was a house in a great neighborhood with a good school and my dad had a good union job that looked out for him even when he got sick.
Thank you very much for the recommendation.