Links to consider, 9/10
Noah Smith and Vitalik Buterin; John O'Sullivan on Matt Continetti; Robert Barro on inflation; Eric Kaufmann on the political gender gap; Rob Henderson on human aggression
Noah Smith interviews Vitalik Buterin, who says,
If, in 2040, cryptocurrency has made its way robustly into a few niches: it replaces gold's store of value component, it becomes a sort of "Linux of finance", an always-available alternative financial layer that ends up being the backend of really important stuff but doesn't quite take over from the mainstream, then the chance that it's going to either disappear or take over the world completely in 2042 is going to be much smaller, and individual events are going to have much less of a bearing on that possibility.
By “the backend of really important stuff” you mean that the Apache Web server was written on top of Linux. In the late 1990s, there was need for fast, reliable Web servers. At that time, operating systems were prone to crashing—Windows was infamous for “the blue screen of death” and Apple was even worse.
When the demand for web servers exploded, it turned out that Apache was the best solution. Netscape had a server product, but it was so buggy that they did not even use it for their own web site. By the time that other robust servers appeared, including Windows NT and Sun’s JavaWebServer, the server market had standardized on Apache. But if Netscape had been focused enough on winning the server market to get the bugs out of its product, or if Microsoft had started working on web servers earlier (Bill Gates was notoriously late to appreciate the Internet), or if Sun had marketed the JavaWebServer as a serious product and not just a demo, one of them might have superseded Apache. If that had happened, Linux today might be little more than a curiosity.
I am still waiting to see crypto become the backend of something as significant as Apache.
Trump’s immediate impact was due not only to his own extraordinary personality but as much or more to the large gap between the opinions and mood of the conservative half of the country and the official Republican leadership. As interviews at the time showed, many voters intended to support Trump despite their disapproval of his profanity, personal behavior, and moral character. They felt culturally dispossessed, economically left behind, trapped in an increasingly alien land, patronized, despised, ignored, and completely without hope that the Republican Party they usually backed would rescue them. Trump might not be able to either, but he was a fighter, and he would at least represent their point of view.
…Even if his words were often brutal, fiery, and irresponsible, all of his actions as president seem to have been constitutional and legal—which cannot be said of the so-called “Resistance,” including judges and national security officials who conspired to obstruct the workings of government and to pervert the course of justice. And it was not until he lost the second election, after four years of frustrated compliance with the rules of a rigged game (no, not the election itself), that Trump broke his bonds, cast off all mental restraints, lived down to his words, and embarked on the self-destructive course of urging that the transfer of power be blocked.
…Conservatives never really came to terms with the fact that, by the turn of the 20th century, the populists and the elites in the United States had changed places—ordinary Americans were commonsensical and pragmatic, rooted in everyday reality, while the elites were driven by unruly passions that were justified by arcane academic jargon on everything from open borders to cultural appropriation.
I recommend the essay, which may be paywalled, . But in general, I want to cut back on my coverage of the topic of “what’s going on with conservatives (or Republicans or progressives or Democrats).” It’s not a good use of brain cells by many of those, including me, who dwell on it.
Why were the inflation results so different from 2020 on? An obvious difference between the two periods is the dramatic fiscal expansion that began in the spring of 2020 in response to the COVID-related recession, and which included federal transfers that dwarfed those associated with the Great Recession.
To see how fiscal expansion translates into inflation, start with the volume of federal spending since the second quarter of 2020. The quarterly data up to the first quarter of 2022 show cumulative excess federal spending (above a pre-COVID baseline spending of $5 trillion per year) of $4.1 trillion – or 18% of 2021 GDP. The main spending surges (at annual rates) reflect outlays of $9 trillion in the second quarter of 2020 and $7 trillion in the third quarter of 2020, under President Donald Trump, followed by $8 trillion each in the first and second quarters of 2021, under President Joe Biden. I warned about this when the COVID “relief” spending was first being voted.
Robert Barro, by the way, is one of the most important economists of his generation. If “Barro” makes you think of Josh, that is like saying that “McCartney” makes you think of Wings.
By 2016, a record 42% of women identified as liberal, versus 28% for men.I lack access to the raw HERI data for subsequent years but the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) surveys of 55,000 undergraduates in the top 150 colleges in 2020 and 2021 show that 61% of women lean liberal compared to 44% of men, a whopping 17-point gender gap.
Pointer from Ed West. Concerning the issue of censoring harmful speech, Kaufmann writes,
64% of women under 30 favoured political correctness on the above question compared to 48% of men under 30. This 16-point gap dwarfed the 4-point gender gap found in the over-50s. When I asked this on an American Qualtrics survey, the gender gap was 14 points for under-30s compared to a mere 1 point for the over-50s. The gender gap among the young stands out in both cases.
I would say that these demographics argue against the view that wokeness is at or past its peak.
Wrangham makes good on explaining the book’s title, The Goodness Paradox.
Throughout the book, he uses the term “coalitionary proactive aggression,” which means a group of individuals who come together to deliberately attack a person or another group.
This type of violence is unique to humans.
…careful planning to inflict harm on outgroups comes naturally to us, and many people find it pleasurable.
Re the O'Sullivan quote on President Trump, Trump never urged "that the transfer of power be blocked." His position regarding the counting of electoral votes was that there had been a great deal of obvious fraud and that the state legislatures, which under the Constitution are the sole authority on the validity of their electoral votes, should be consulted on that question. In other words, it was their responsibility to determine their electoral votes. This had not happened because Democratic Party governors in key states had not called their legislatures back into session to make such a determination.
President Trump advocated that VP Pence send the matter back to the states for a brief period so that determination could be made. One can argue about Pence's authority to do that, but it cannot be said that President Trump urged "the transfer of power be blocked."
Barro: May be onto something, but if he could just explain the interaction of the deficit and the Fed's supposed targeting. Until someone does, I still say the Fed just made a mistake in judging the inflation impact of its instrument settings given conditions: labor supply recovery, supply chain constraints. It know that some above average target inflation was needed on account of these ("temporary") factors, but their ex ante accommodation was too much.