Links to Consider, 12/8
Steven Pinker on irrational beliefs; Tove K on the population crisis; Russ Roberts and Tyler Cowen on econGoat; Friedman vs. Friedman; Rebecca Burgess, Michael Lucchesi, and me (video)
To be sure, people are always vulnerable to paranormal woo-woo, conspiracy theories, and other popular delusions, though not to fill a gap left by religion—it’s often the religious who are most credulous about other nonverifiable beliefs. A vulnerability to weird beliefs is not the same as a need for them. Religious belief does not seem to be a homeostatic drive, like food or air or sex, where if people don’t have enough, they’ll start to crave more. A lot of people in secular Western European and Commonwealth democracies seem to do just fine without any form of religion or substitute raptures.
This quote seems to ignore the idea of social epistemology. He needs to be reminded that what we believe depends on what others who matter to us believe. And others may believe something as a way of firming up a tribal bond. Beliefs do not have to be rational in order to provide a basis for tribal bonds. In fact, irrational beliefs may work better, as they provide a sort of loyalty test.
Yes, a sustained birth rate below 2 will make the human race smaller and smaller until it goes extinct. But only if the human race is not divided into groups where some groups have a higher birth rate. Then some groups of humans will decrease exponentially and other groups will increase exponentially. The human race will not disappear. Its composition will just be altered in favor of those who know how to make children.
If it turns out that the groups that know how to make children are currently small, there might be a blip where the human population of planet Earth actually does decrease for a time. But the exponential nature of population increase will make sure that such a decrease becomes just a blip. The human race has rebounded from many crises before. It will rebound from the population crisis too.
,,,The current low fertility levels in the developed world is not likely to lead to a much smaller global population. Instead, it will lead to:
I agree that it is wrong to look at overall reproduction rates. Instead, consider who is reproducing.
Here in the United States, I have been to weddings where the young couple seems delightfully normal. I root for them to have children. On the other hand, there seems to be a segment within the younger generation that holds idiotic viewpoints and does not wish to reproduce. I say fine. The gene pool could use an adult swim.
Russ Roberts and Tyler Cowen discuss the latter’s EconGOAT project. They discuss Keynes’ anti-semitism and connect it with Keynes’ dislike of the norm of accumulating savings.
I came away from Skidelsky’s three-volume biography of Keynes with a different explanation for his hatred of “hoarding.” Keynes’ friends were the Cambridge Apostles and the Bloomsbury Group, including his gay lover Lytton Strachey. They shared a desire to overthrow Victorian morality. You could say that this was their project. Strachey’s iconic book, Eminent Victorians, was an ironically titled scathing attack. Reading Skidelsky, I connected Keynes’ abhorrence of the saving mindset to the overall anti-Victorian project of the crowd that he hung out with.
The simplest explanation for someone buying both insurance and lottery tickets is that he has a utility function for which marginal utility first decreases and then, above some level, increases.1 That is logically possible but if you are free to make any assumption about utility functions you like in order to explain observed behavior economics becomes a theory that predicts nothing, since any behavior can be explained by suitable assumptions.
The footnote points out that this was the Friedman-Savage utility function, which might be considered Milton Friedman’s first major academic contribution. After deriding his famous late father’s explanation, David goes on to offer alternatives.
I talked with Rebecca Burgess and Michael Lucchese about Emanuel Todd’s book on feminism. Where are our social norms headed?
substacks referenced above: