81 Comments

Thanks! I would say though that my criticism is broader:

1. I do not think elites have "replaced" material signalling with belief signalling. I think this has always happened and I am not even sure there is so much evidence these ratios have changed. This is another argument for focusing on content of beliefs: elites will always signal, but do they believe in good things?

2. I think there is a mishmash of libertarian positions and far left positions in terms of what counts as "luxury beliefs" which is really misleading and confusing imo

3. The whole sphere formed around luxury beliefs has this conspiratorial, 4D chess mentality which I explain is the wrong framework to have. This is not to excuse elites, but more to stick to the truth.

As to your point, I think any criticism of these beliefs will implicitly target other elites. If you write in NYT that defunding the police is bad and why, you are realistically targeting other elites. You can also specifically stress this affects low income communities, I just don't get what the emphasis on the "class struggle" dimension adds to the conversation. Indeed, it arguably just creates another victimhood sphere: conservatives, who are now rivalling left wing people in finding new things to whine about.

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I think you have misunderstood Troubled. According to Henderson, the elites do not hold these beliefs to signal to the _out-group_. They are signalling to their own in-group, and that is the point. They perceive the problem with the elite class is that it is too large. Being rich is too common. Having the correct ancestors is too common. Being educated, even at the top universities is too common. There are just too many people who qualify, and thus 'elite' isn't selective enough. So their project is to set things up so that only people who hold these particular beliefs count as 'the real elite'. Boot the rest into the non-elite wealthy and upper middle class. Excluding all the people unwilling to espouse such beliefs gets 'the cream of the cream' down to manageable size. Then, of course, they need a class of flunkies who pander to the elite. This test finds those people as well.

Now, I do not know to what extend this is true. I can well believe that this is true at Yale, where Henderson attended, but that in other places the fight for who gets to be the real elite is about something else. I don't live in the USA, and would never get invited to those parties anyway. But I have a good number of books, Roger Martin's *Fixing the Game* being one that is rather accessible, if a bit dated, which outline the fact that the richest Americans have been involved in a class civil war for many decades. It's rich somewheres vs rich anywheres and manufacturers vs financial services and oil and gas vs renewables -- the American wealthy is in no way united the way it was in the past. This has been bad news for traditional conservatives, because the ace-in-the-hole for conservatives always was 'we have more money'. This is no longer the case.

So class is very relevant to the discussion. And what you seem to have missed is that Henderson explicitly did not write his book for the elites, because he wants to change or modify their behaviour. He's not writing a critique of bad beliefs. He's writing for those in the position of his younger self, as a warning -- these beliefs are dangerous, and that the people who promote them do not live according to their precepts, which is the message he thinks they need to hear.

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I think the point that “just because these people have apparent wealth and success and status doesn’t mean their espoused beliefs are valuable” is a really important one. Emulating those with luxury beliefs in those beliefs is dangerous, but a highly appealing trap to a social species that typically follows the behaviors of high status individuals.

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I haven't read his book, but Rob has defined the luxury beliefs concept in a ton of other articles that I did read.

Is there a higher percentage of people attending Harvard nowadays? I agree competition seems to have increased, but beliefs are no good differentiator between members of the elite. One of the issues people complain about is liberal college monoculture. How could this monoculture arise if beliefs were actually a good status signal? If anyone within a circle can have access to a status signal, and easily at that, that's not a good status signal. It's much easier to believe in defund the police than to get into a Harvard PhD for example.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

I agree that there are two strands, a "rich elite" and a "cultural elite". Most of us have no way to enter the former; the latter is accessible to e.g. those with the "power of the pen" or other abilities. But I don't think they are engaged in a battle. It seems to me plain that the one (economic elite) is subordinate to the other (intellectual class). Why that is I have no idea.

Your oil and gas company founder or your industrialist's grandkids went to Yale or went to Hollywood or joined the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.

You not infrequently read about their wanting to "do penance" for their ancestor's sins, via their trust fund, which is plenty enough to give away and also keep them in those oft-referenced NPR tote bags and EVs and $$ authentic travel.

Perhaps it is not enough continually to ask why the cultural elite should so easily hold sway in this way, but to ask what were the shortcomings of a Whiggish business elite, in terms of the appeal of its values. Clearly the economic elite has shortcomings of its own which allow the cultural elite to exploit it.

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This wasn't what I was saying. The argument is that there are two separate rich elites and they have been fighting each other for decades. Its a civil war. Culture is window dressing.

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Ironically the term 'elite' is used in the same sloppy and imprecise way as 'luxury belief' sometimes tends to get used "in the wild". It's impossible to have productive discourse without establishing and sticking to precise definitions of terms from the very beginning. Plenty of third-quintile folks are going along with and parroting many of these harmful proposals enabled by similar degrees of delusion and insulation from the consequences, and to call such people 'elite' is ridiculous.

My own opinion this kind of "personally costless sanctimony" is a widespread phenomenon in human social psychology and a form of status signaling that is hardly confined to 'elites' at all. That would be like saying that sartorial 'fashion' is mostly or exclusive a thing for 'elites', when in fact the incentives, impulses, and behaviors related to trying to conform to or surpass peer competitors and be perceived to be as impressively 'fashionable' as possible are clearly powerful and observable for all classes.

Just like with the brilliantly-scripted "cerulean sweater" monologue in "The Devil Wears Prada", fashion of all types is for everyone, but trickles down in tiers of social class in cycles of imitation of above, and thus must keep changing at the top, for differentiation from below.

But note it's actually *not* from the very top, and I think this is what Henderson gets really wrong, needing to bone up on his Orwell. The problem is (or at least, was), not the true 'elite', but the *near* (thus aspirational) elites frustrated with being unable to get to the very top (for a number of possible reasons) and to either join or replace the existing class of top elites. That's kind of like Henderson himself, so perhaps the insight hits a little too close to home.

Unlike the Marxist model of class struggle, the proletariat never matter to any of this, and the main event is the rivalry between these two groups of elites which is a universal and perpetual feature of the human condition and the dynamics of these struggles has been a major driver of history everywhere since the dawn of civilization.

The typical person's perception of one's overall social status is like an index aggregating values from a lot of distinct variables including intelligence, athleticism, physical attractiveness, fame, popularity, wealth, power, character, righteousness, socially-recognized 'rank', and so forth.

If you are trying to compete for status with a rival and for whatever reason simple can't win where they are strongest (e.g., wealth, aristocratic heritage, etc.) then that opens up the possibility of winning by getting a lot better than they are where they are weakest.

This subconscious perception of opportunity and drive for class-leapfrogging is what motivates near-elites when they are trying to be ideological entrepreneurs and using their surplus cognitive talents to come up with and conspicuously preach new extensions or modifications for novel fashionable beliefs is how they to achieve superiority over rivals they cannot surpass in other ways.

The fundamental problem is that this whole process is vulnerable to falling into a number of pathological and destructive "Social Failure Modes", something that has recurred over and over in many societies for centuries and especially western or intellectually-westernized ones.

One of those modes is the one Henderson is trying to highlight - of members of the influential classes incentivized to adopt and espouse normative principles and social reforms with negative consequences because they benefit personally in their circle but have no skin in the game for the fallout - though I think he places far too much emphasis on the "class gatekeeping" function, again, perhaps exaggerating the importance because feeling this particular aspect of it a bit too keenly given his personal experiences.

Frankly we would all be much better off if these impulses were forcibly channeled into private and harmless contests and elites were forced to jockey for relative status by competing with Paul Allen to have the perfect business card.

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The cerulean sweater monologue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja2fgquYTCg

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

Sorry if I was unclear. I was not trying to restate what you were saying. I was disagreeing (not obviously enough). There is a rich elite - which generally defers to the non-rich elite. Sure, the latter often has ways of enriching itself, and has - but there is no war in my view. I don't know what "culture is window dressing" means so I won't speak to that.

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Yeah, I think your first paragraph is right on, and I would just add there is always the usual tension between the new money types and the old money types, the super rich vs the ultra rich, or the cognitive elite vs the financial elite, etc. Espousing said luxury beliefs is probably at least in part signaling which faction the speaker is aligning themselves with.

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I thought your essay was persuasive and it summarized my own views pretty well. I have two problems with the concept of "luxury beliefs". First, I don't think it accurately explains why people hold these beliefs or the social dynamics surrounding them. Second, in practice the term tends to be a way to smear anyone or anything you don't like, which makes it not a very useful tool for discussion.

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I agree. For instance, above oil and gas versus renewables is deployed as shorthand for "productive" versus "unproductive". This puts us in the position of classifying e.g. the Danes as the unproductive - as the "takers" - of the world. You've gone far astray if that's your logic.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

It also elides the fact that all of us are takers in some sense in this life, on this planet. One should have some humility.

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"Second, in practice the term tends to be a way to smear anyone or anything you don't like,"

Ouch. I don't know how much this is true but it certainly seems a huge risk well worth being aware of. Thx for pointing it out.

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"Conspiratorial" it's a psychologically powerful word.

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One of Ruxandra's criticisms of Henderson is that the term luxury beliefs can be abused. Any term can be misused. If we insist that we use only terms that can't be misinterpreted, we'd never get to say anything. Jesus Christ is misinterpreted, what chance do mere mortals have?

Ruxandra suggests that the solution is to cultivate better elites. Good luck with that. Just look at what is happening now at NPR. Does anyone think that things will change there? Did the abysmal performance of three Ivy League Presidents lead to any real change at these Universities? I see some hope in platforms such as Substack where people are free to express themselves. I also see hope with young people that are avoiding college and instead learning a trade. Sometimes I feel that I'm nothing more than a ball in some billionaire's pinball machine.

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"... the solution is to cultivate better elites." Nah. Don't hate the players; hate the game. You could try to raise a new generation of elites in any number of different ways, but it would all be nothing so long as "the game is still the game", since those new elites are inevitably going to be transformed into whatever they need to be to be the kind of people who have the best chance of winning it, that is, just like the current elites. You have to kill the game itself.

Even existing elites, bad as they are, are perhaps not all totally and irredeemably ruined and, if history is any judge, a surprisingly large number of them will instantly and effortlessly come around to radically new ways of thinking when the new bosses insist on it.

Remember the "Public Risk, Private Gain" / "moral hazard" / "too big to fail" problem that got a lot of discussion in the GFC? A safe bet has a good chance of a small gain and a small chance of a small loss. A risky bet has a small chance of a huge gain but a good chance of a huge loss. A responsible bank doesn't take many risky bets.

But if it's true that when a risky bet pays out, they get to keep it all, and if it doesn't, the government bails out the losses, then they are going to ramp up risk. You could try to stop them by just prohibiting risky betting, but this has all kinds of other problems. Or you could let them stop themselves by credibly committing to no more bailouts. That'd be a lot better if USG could do it, but obviously it can't.

This is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves with our elites and their awful beliefs. They all perceive they have the opportunity to win a few micro-status points by espousing whatever the pernicious and insane nonsense of the day might be, and if it turns out to blow up, they pay no price and suffer no consequences, and often never even have to admit causality or that they were wrong about anything. So, why not?

Without giving them a huge why not, such dynamics will inevitably arise and straightaway lead any open and democratic society into suicidal ruin.

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Do you think humans will ever figure out that the root of the problem is in the design of the game itself? It's like taking candy from babies.

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I explain the reason why it's abused is because it's intrinsically promiscuous. It's very amenable to abuse, because it rests on not quite true empirical assumptions.

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Luxury beliefs are so labeled because of two distinct qualities:

(1) The people advocating these ideas hold positions of influence in society - they are esteemed as more intelligent and more important than average.

(2) The people advocating these ideas do not suffer the negative consequences of the idea the way average people do.

I am also on board for calling out bad ideas as bad ideas. But then the follow up question: Why are supposedly smart people promoting bad ideas?

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because of social desirability bias

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Which just pushes the question back, "Why are those beliefs socially desirable?"

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Intelligence, like most everything, is measured/perceived on a relative scale, and the "intelligent" would like to keep it this way, thank you very much.

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deletedApr 18
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Are lower classes anti-Police or are they for better policing? The luxury belief is to be anti-Police and the elite embrace this ideology all while they enjoy gated communities and communities inherently free of crime.

I can see the lower classes angry about bad policing. I can see them angry about a flawed justice system. Are the lower classes actually against policing and for allowing thieves and robbers to ruin their communities?

It is very difficult to get a fair measure of what the lower classes want as the elite write the news and make policies.

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I do wish people would stop using "liberal" as a substitute for "left-wing" or "progressive".

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Here's an ungated version of the WSJ battery article.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/other/the-ev-battery-of-your-dreams-is-coming/ar-BB1lxwzA

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Thanks for the pointer. It all sounds nice, but as I said in another comment, I'll believe it when I see it. Another thing perhaps worth noting is that I don't see anything in the article that would change the very large amount of mining that will be needed for a big expansion in the number of electric vehicles, especially of lithium and copper. I expect that will put a damper on the expansion. I don't think environmentalists really grasp right now just how much mining will be required for the "electrify everything" future.

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It isn't that environmentalists don't really grasp the how much mining will be required, they just choose to ignore or lie about it. The same way they ignore/lie about the environmental damage associated with renewables as a result of how much of the earth's landmass would have to be covered by wind and solar installations to generate sufficient electricity. Reality doesn't factor into the 'climate change' agenda.

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Yes, the quantity of mining is huge. Convince me it is a large percentage of total mining. Include fossil fuels in an arguably appropriate way.

Wind doesn't really "cover" land and it can share space with numerous other activities. As for solar, an engineering prof working on solar tech shared with me his calculation of solar needed to meet current US grid power needs. If in the southwest, an area about 1/3 of Illinois. Obviously more if distributed to cloudier and more northern locales. On the other hand, there are a lot of roofs where solar doesn't have any competition for space.

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No amount of solar can meet US grid power needs until there is cost-effective electricity storage -- which gets us back closer to the subject in the original post.

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The discussion is about whether these improvements that would make EVs very competitive with ICE vehicles will happen soon, or at all. Arguing the batteries still won't be sufficient for grid storage is a red herring.

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You're the one who made the comment about solar and the power grid. I was merely responding to it. I agree that some of the issues of storage for cars and the grid are different, but they do share some of the same issues.

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Wind ''can share space with numerous other activities." Such as? And who exactly wants to 'share space' with wind? Not the elites with 'luxury beliefs' (like 'climate change') discussed in the other link, as far as I know. Why don't you volunteer to 'share space' with wind and put your beliefs into practice? The calculations of an engineering prof, or anybody at any US academic institution, have no credibility with me. Who knows what unrealistic assumptions went into these calculations. And then there's Michael Schellenberger's sad story about the California desert tortoises that died after being relocated to make way for a solar farm. Poor tortoises. A fitting metaphor for the whole climate change agenda.

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"Such as? "

Mostly agriculture but I suspect there are other possibilities.

"The calculations of an engineering prof, or anybody at any US academic institution, have no credibility with me. "

Make the calculation yourself. It really isn't that hard. Just takes a little time.

"Michael Schellenberger's sad story about the California desert tortoises "

Thankfully, fossil fuels never have killed any animals.

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Thanks. Depending on your priors, you may feel good or bad about the conclusion:

"In EVs, no rollout of new battery tech is a sure thing until it has passed automakers’ extensive internal testing. Even then there can be problems, like when GM had to recall tens of thousands of Chevy Bolts on account of the risk of fires in their battery packs.

This means all of the timetables battery makers have proposed can—and do—slip. Even so, the next five to 10 years should see a steady drumbeat of new battery technologies that yield performance gains beyond the incremental improvements we’ve seen over the past couple of decades."

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"these changes are likely to mean that by 2030, gas vehicles will cost more than their electric equivalents"

I would say that, if this happens, it will more likely be because governments have forced up the prices of gas vehicles than because electric vehicles have gotten cheaper. I don't have a WSJ subscription, so I can't read the article, but this sounds to me like the hype about fusion energy for the last 50 years or more, which never seems to come through. I'd love to be wrong about it, but I'll believe it when I see it...

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

Right, it's hype. Putting government price distortion aside, there is absolutely no way that in just six years from now an electric vehicle will cost less *to produce* than an 'equivalent' ICE vehicle.

Efficient ICE engines are small and cheap and these days impressively durable, while electric vehicle giant batteries are big and expensive and like the ones in your smartphone tend to wear out and lose capacity after a bunch of cycles. Denser batteries that can charge faster will of course be better but still bulky, weighty, and expensive.

Mike Buckland commented with the ungated MSN version of the article, but there's not much to it. Billions of dollars have been spent on rechargeable battery R&D over half a century (yes really, lithium battery tech goes back to the mid 70s) to try and hack away at "the anode problem" which has been a bottleneck or stumbling block for a long time, and progress has been slow. Certain approaches to "fast charging" have been known for a long time, but so far it has been hard to deal with the apparent trade-off in that the faster one performs each charge the fewer good cycles you get out of the cell lifetimes.

The article basically says, "Several companies claim that they have new ways to bite big chunks out of the anode problem," but whether they will actually be able to quickly scale production and reach a price point that gives the tech in today's Teslas a run for its money is something they have not been all that persuasive about.

I predict that the situation in the US and most developed countries in 2030 will be slightly better in terms of the bang-for-the-buck one gets when buying an electric car, and slightly more electrified than it is today, but not transformatively so, and however much the government nudges prices, it will still be nowhere near parity in terms of real production costs.

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founding

Probably yes @MikeW, government subsidies are already distorting the market greatly. So far mostly to subsidize electrics, but fully capable of inflating the costs of ICE's via increased taxes & regulation.

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My intuition is to agree with this take, but one thing that gives me pause is the proliferation of ebikes the past five years or so. I see a lot of people out riding those both for recreation and as commuter vehicles in my area these days. Those didn't exist 12 years ago, I think because the battery to run it would have been impractically large and heavy or the range would have been about 300 yards. Anticipating that continued improvements in battery technology might translate to cars (or at least motorcycles) in the next ten years maybe shouldn't sound crazy.

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Well, we'll see. I'm not aware of any big change in EV batteries over the last six years. Maybe the next six years will be very different, but I've seen an awful lot of overly optimistic predictions over the years... Somewhat related is that some people have been predicting true self-driving cars for quite a while now. I think these problems are just harder than the optimists think they are. I will admit that the recent developments in large language models are impressive and surprising to me, but will we really see true artificial intelligence in the near future? I will wait and see.

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Here's the ungated version of the WSJ battery article posted in another comment.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/other/the-ev-battery-of-your-dreams-is-coming/ar-BB1lxwzA

Read the article. It is about incremental changes NOTHING LIKE fusion. Some may fail but surely many will not. Regardless, the technology and production costs have dropped precipitously and there's zero reason to think that won't continue.

I've always thought storage was the Achilles heel of a mostly renewable grid. Still do but this article makes me far less certain about that. Likewise, I've generally expected electric cars would eventually become cheaper life-cycle if not also initial purchase. That seems rather obvious. (doesn't mean I want one any time soon)

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Incremental changes aren't going to produce the kind of dramatic change by 2030 (just six years from now!) that he claims. Some of the things, like solid-state batteries, sound really good. It will be great if they come through, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

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Someone should challenge Mr. Mims to a bet about this prediction. Maybe that would discourage reporters like him from being propagandists for the green agenda.

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I bought a really nice name-brand cordless drill about 20 years ago. It was massive and so heavy I could barely handle it with one hand. It finally died about 2 years ago and I replaced it with a lower cost Chinese knock-off. The new one was tiny. And had more torque and far longer battery life. The battery is at most 1/4 the size and the weight is way less than that. Maybe the next twenty years won't see that much improvement but you are the propagandist if you don't think that's a reasonable guess.

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Your Chinese knock-off won't last 20 years. You'll be lucky if it doesn't crap out in 5 years. I purchased one of those 'energy efficient' refrigerators (probably assembled in Mexico with Chinese parts) to replace a 20+ year old American-made GE refrigerator that was the original appliance in my previous home. The new fridge crapped out after 5 years. Once the energy expended to manufacture 2 replacement fridges is taken into account, the old fridge that lasted 20+ years was probably more energy efficient. I also paid a locksmith to fix the original front door lock when it started to go wonky. I could have replaced it with some cheapo Chinese-made knock-off (the US factories that used to make locks having long since shut down, and the locksmith told me the Chinese locks were 'junk'), but I still would have had to pay a locksmith to install it, and it certainly wouldn't have lasted another 30+ years like the original lock. But if you want to believe we are steadily progressing towards technological utopia, be my guest.

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Apr 19·edited Apr 19

Seems like the fridges now could be even more efficient if they weren’t so enormous and didn’t have running lights like a Cadillac and fridges-within-the fridges where you keep the secret condiments.

I came into possession of one of those by chance, with a house, and it took me like 3 hours to clean it so many were the drawers, shelves, and compartments. I kept thinking I was done, then realized there was a portal to still more fridge.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

I agree on the knockoff drill being unlikely to last more than 5 years. Of course my old one only made it that long because it had very light duty.

Agreed on the refrigerators. Far more than where made, that is a design choice. I don't see how that has anything to do with the current conversation on improvement in battery tech.

I have no clue where your tech utopia comment comes from. Seems loaded with a ton of wrong assumptions about me and what I believe.

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The ''unicorn' or 'holy grail' of improvements in battery technology has been promised for decades now, but it has yet to materialize. If such improvement was physically possible, it would have happened by now, and whatever incremental improvement occurs in the future will never be sufficient to make solar and wind a feasible substitute for fossil fuels, regardless of their respective environmental impacts. I'm not against diversification of energy sources. I'm all for exploring alternatives to fossil fuels, not because of climate change, but simply because we may eventually run out of fossil fuels, or they may become prohibitively costly to extract. Maybe the answer is nuclear, or some other energy source that is yet to be invented. But battery technology combined with low-density, intermittent renewables is a dead end. The only thing keeping this con job going is rent seeking and ideological capture. Btw, my go-to on this topic is Schellenberger. He is what I call an honest progressive, a rare breed, and I detest progressivism. He is a true believer that use of fossil fuels contributes to climate change (I'm a skeptic, and in any event, the linkage is impossible to prove compared to other possible factors), but he has learned through practical experience from trying to implement renewables that they aren't the solution, and now advocates for nuclear along with natural gas. It is because he is a true believer but does not push the standard progressive narrative that I find him trustworthy, even though I don't agree with him on many topics.

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This conversation has never been about ''unicorn,' 'holy grail,' or batteries needed for intermittent renewables. The cost/benefit for that requires far better/cheaper batteries than for a car and may never happen, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's impossible.

As for cars, battery tech really doesn't need much more incremental improvement to be as good or better in most applications. Already better in a handful of situations.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

Wouldn't work- he would refuse to take the bet, or refuse to pay when he lost, and refuse to admit that he lost.

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What's the bet? You want to bet whether BMW markets a battery in the next two years that is at least 20% better than what they market now?

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A bet would be, from my side, that there isn't a battery for a normal sized sedan that has the range of an ICE version of the same car, and that there isn't a battery marketed for that same car that is charged in the time it takes fill a gas tank by 2030.

Additionally, the batteries will still be lithium ion batteries. I would even go so far as to predict the comparable prices for the two version of the same make and model will price the EV higher by at least 10% in 2030, and that the costs of fuel will actually favor the ICE version by 2030.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

"that there isn't a battery for a normal sized sedan that has the range of an ICE version of the same car,”

I don't know about same model but the longest range EVs (all Teslas) are pretty close to typical ICE vehicles. Note that there are very few ice and ev same model. I'd bet they get closer (both improving) but whether they become equal by 2030 is almost entirely a marketing question. A bet on this would miss the issues of concern.

“that there isn't a battery marketed for that same car that is charged in the time it takes fill a gas tank by 2030.”

It sounds like the odds of being close are high but I'd also bet against EVs charging faster than a fill-up. Either way, getting close (less than say 20 minutes) would be a phenomenal improvement.

“Additionally, the batteries will still be lithium ion batteries.”

Almost certainly. No bet.

I would even go so far as to predict the comparable prices for the two version of the same make and model will price the EV higher by at least 10% in 2030,”

I agree it will most likely be something like that. No bet.

and that the costs of fuel will actually favor the ICE version by 2030”

Oops. Fuel for EVs (grid price, not charging station) is currently lower. Happy to bet you that isn't going to reverse.

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/electric-vs-gas-cars-it-cheaper-drive-ev#:~:text=A%202020%20Consumer%20Reports%20study,drivers%20of%20gas%2Dpowered%20cars.

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Charging station price is a major part of what matters, Stu, since we are talking about overall cost of charging. Electrical price increases are outstripping gasoline already and if you take seriously the WSJ article, that will only get worse as we try to move to even just 30% of the miles traveled to EV transport.

As for range- none of the Teslas actually come close today when you test under ordinary driving conditions. The quoted ranges for the Teslas are under the most ideal driving conditions- there is far more variance in actual performance for the EVs than there is for an ICE vehicles, and the EVs always perform worse than claimed.

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The comment about batteries charging as fast as a gasoline pump is pure nonsense.

Car batteries like my Ioniq-5 are already DC charging at up to 800 volts and 200 kw. Going 5 times faster (20 minutes to 4 minutes) would require larger charging cables with more copper and they are already about as big as can be handled by humans. You are already talking about more current that what you home electrical panel can handle and 4 times the voltage with DC current that would blow the main breakers apart in you home panel if you tried to switch them off.

That ties into your: "I would instinctively think that the causality runs from mental disposition to ideology" if you note that a mental disposition can be viewed as "scientific / data" approach vs "believer / feeling" approach to the world. Believing impossible ideology is possible is just a feeling. Your author on batteries was a believer with a feeling and I like a more analytical approach based upon the known behavior of energy and thermodynamics. Do you want to make a bet on which is correct? Superconductivity invention can make be wrong, but 2030 is only 6 years away.

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So why pay people to buy inefficient EVs now? Why subsidise old tech battery plants?

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The right question that no one will answer.

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I thought Ruxandra's theses were (i) the Luxury Beliefs theory is false (elites do not hold those beliefs in order to signal to the out-group); and (ii) Luxury Belief discourse accentuates a class divide. Point (i) alone would be enough to motivate rejecting the theory. I'm not sure how your response on behalf of Henderson addresses (ii). ("Stop talking about luxury beliefs" is not the same as "ignore the class divide.")

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The power grid is highly regulated and sclerotic. Updating it to handle the power demands of EVs will lag the increasing demand for power. The power providers will try to implement constraints on the charging demands which will be curtailed by politicians leading to rolling blackouts and brownouts. This could lead to more backup generators being installed to reduce dependence on an increasingly unreliable power supply.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 22

"If I were Henderson, I would respond that the class divide exists regardless of whether we talk about it. And it is the behavior of the elites that is accentuating the class divide."

It's not a perfect comparison but when I read this I couldn't help but think of people who say the best way to combat racism is to stop talking about it. The comeback would be, that racism "exists regardless of whether we talk about it. And it is the behavior of" racists that is the problem. I'm not saying who is right on either question but the comparison makes me wonder how consistent my views are on these two questions even while recognizing the issues might differ enough that my views don't have to be consistent.

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And Steve Sailer would say, of course racism exists, and we should talk about it, but the major reason for black/white disparities is the behavior of black people. We should talk about that much more than the behavior of whites (present or, especially, past).

(Even though it is extremely rude, and is "blaming the victim", and will get you shunned by respectable society.)

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I am very sympathetic to that view. Still, part of the reason black people behave as they do is the racism that exists. Personally, I think it is easy to see it mostly comes down to behavior of black people but far more difficult to say why they behave that way.

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On Mr. Al-Gharbi's article, a couple of riffs:

1. "They are not merely present in the United States, but in most other studied countries as well". The data for other countries comes from 4 waves of the World Values Survey between 1980 and 2014. Which includes Iran. Lets suppose that the more patriotic, religious, more likely to be married, more attractive (yes this is a claim but only for Europe, the United States and Australia, but lets be generous), healthy, more conservative are supporters of the Supreme Leader. And the less patriotic, irreligious, less likely to be married, less attractive, unhealthy, liberals are more likely to oppose the Supreme Leader. I am biased towards Zahra Rahnavard.

2. One may not like "activists" or overly politically engaged or those preaching social justice, but I think we all free-ride an awful lot on their collective efforts. I absolutely do not have the physical courage to march against monopoly on salt production (https://www.britannica.com/event/Salt-March) or for voting rights (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selma_to_Montgomery_marches) but boy am I glad that others do.

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We don't free ride when we don't want the ride, and not all activism is desirable or beneficial. What is the opposite of "free riding" when one doesn't like or is hurt by where one is being made to go against one's will? "Vuelos de la muerte"?

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I wish this (https://robertbryce.substack.com/p/teslas-turmoil-the-ev-meltdown-in) had come out a few days ago, but I'm going to go ahead and post it anyway...

To go along with Christopher Mims' prediction that gas vehicles will cost more than electric vehicles by 2030 and EVs will charge as quickly as filling up at a gas station, here are a few similar predictions:

"The electric automobile will quickly and easily take precedence over all other kinds of motor carriages as soon as an effective battery of light weight is discovered." -- from an L.A. Times article in 1901

"Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they are within reach of the average family." -- from a Washington Post article in 1915

"By 2025, gasoline engine cars will be unable to compete with electric vehicles." -- from a report by Tony Seba in 2014

"Electric vehicles are The Next Big Thing, and they always will be." -- Robert Bryce (link above)

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The argument to focus on class conflict rather than, or at a minimum paired with, a focus on the silliness of luxury beliefs is based on a false premise. Specifically, basing that argument on the fact of class conflict being a reality neglects the fact that solutions to complex problems do not necessarily require head-on attacks on the problem. For example, granting even a whole-hearted embrace of the idea of deeply embedded structural racism, the “solution” plausibly lies in a variety of approaches not tied in any principled way to or even requiring an acknowledgment of the existence of structural racism. For example, giving every low-income African-American child a K-12 education of the highest quality (see, e.g., KIPP, Harlem Children's Zone, Excellence Academy) will do immeasurably more for the welfare of minority kids than even a ten fold increase of today’s endless scolding about racist this and racist that.

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If I think of the term luxury belief very broadly, I can't help but think of Thomas Sowell. I read his book Basic Economics and multiple times it seemed he did not recognize or simply avoided the difficult questions. My memory is there were many but the only one which comes immediately to mind is healthcare. He was very competent in making the case for not having third party payers. Great. But what about really expensive care and people who can't afford the care they need? How do we address that? Crickets. He says nothing. To me this makes only discussing the market option while ignoring the cases where the market fails is a "luxury belief."

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For what it's worth, the honest economist would probably say, 1) insurance that only pays for catastrophes would take care of many of those problems, but 2) when "health care" is as expensive as it is now, there is no way a poor person could afford soup to nuts cover everything insurance. Part of what's bad about being poor is you can't afford a lot of stuff less-poor people can.

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2) yes, I have no doubt much of health could and should be less expensive. That helps but in no way solves the problem.

1) What are catastrophes? Some things seem obvious - cancer, organ replacement, other conditions needing major surgery. What about diabetes? Does it matter if type I or II? Dialysis for kidney failure? MS, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, etc.? At what point do ALS or dementia become catastrophic? Back pain? Depression? Autism? What about COPD from smoking? What if it's not from smoking?

There is no separation between catastrophic and not other than a totally arbitrary dollar threshold. It is a continuum.

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2) The honest economist says that a poor person simply can't afford modern American medicine, any more than she can afford meat at every meal. If that's "the problem", it can only be solved by other people paying for it.

1) The honest economist would not say catastrophic insurance would take care of all problems. Sure the dollar threshold is arbitrary, but so is the age you can get a driver's license, the age you can vote, the age you can rent a car, the ages you can take various levels of Social Security. Lots of boundaries are pretty arbitrary.

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Ok, so what is it you think can be changed? Remove copays and make everything out-of-pocket until some threshold is met?

A google search suggests somewhere north of 75% of all healthcare spending is for chronic care. Surely most of that falls in the "catastrophic" category. How much impact is your change to catastrophic-only insurance going to have?

As for the other 25%, What about preventative care? Surely vaccines and some other things save money for insurance companies and society too. Are you going to tell insurance companies not to cover those things? They often go so far as giving rewards for various types of preventative care. Should that not happen? On top of that, is common wisdom wrong that treating conditions early is cheaper? If so, should we ignore that by creating more incentive to wait?

I sympathize with your goals but there are A LOT of complications I don't have answers for and I'm doubtful you, Sowell, or anyone else has answers that makes catastrophic-only insurance an option that makes even minimal difference no matter how much we wish it were different.

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My goal here was simply to throw a few things out that I thought an "honest ecomomist" would add.

I am not an expert and have no "solution". I was shocked at your 75% figure, but then I wondered if it was including in "healthcare spending" nursing homes and assisted living and other stuff that is largely custodial (carceral?).

As medical insurance covers more and more, people have come to believe that it really is "health insurance" and should cover whatever affects health. It comes as a shock to many people that until fairly recently, it was considered part of a person's own responsibility to get and pay for vaccinations and various other things that are now called "preventive care". The same way it was a person's own responsibility to pay for food, though starving is very unhealthy.

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"insurance that only pays for catastrophes would take care of many of those problems"

This is what you started with. As we've conversed I've become increasingly doubtful of the claim.

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One of the interesting things about mental health differences is the rural and urban divide. There are psych papers from the 80s documenting doubled rates of depression in urban areas. Schizophrenia has long been higher in urban areas as well. One of the interesting things about the digital world as a place is there is no measure of density. Yet the network of human connectivity might be significantly psychologically greater than any city that has ever existed. Many of the papers al-Gharbi links to try to correct for density factors in the physical world.

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