Links to Consider, 9/17
Razib Khan hearts substack; Brian Chau on populism; I answer five questions; Allison Schrager's wise observations; Tyler Cowen on social media
friends who know how bullish I am on this platform often privately ask whether I am confident Substack will continue to defend free speech. I am happy to say I have complete confidence that as long as the current leadership team is intact, Substack will stay true to the classical liberal vision of openness and debate. I have interacted enough with the leadership team personally and heard enough encouraging things from old friends I trust in Silicon Valley to be highly confident in this prediction.
Khan is the person I most admire on Substack. I enjoyed the whole essay, as I do many of his essays. I hope is prediction is right.
In our Zoom discussion for paid subscribers last Monday, we spent some time on Substack’s business prospects. One thought is that Substack can build a moat by getting its recommendation process working well, so that the best way to get traffic is to stay on Substack. Along those lines, my idea of offering, say, a 10 percent discount on participating newsletters if you subscribe to, say, 3 or more, would appeal to readers and also help to build the moat.
You can disagree on economics, abortion, and even immigration, so long as you recognize the one commandment: the ruling class is illegitimate.
My view of the ruling class is that it’s really bad, but we could do worse. Calling the ruling class illegitimate sounds to me like a call for revolution, and I am not there yet.
Anti-establishment feelings are widespread, as Chau points out. But a coalition that is united around what it is against and divided about what it is for strikes me as unstable and not particularly helpful. Note that Martin Gurri sees ineffectual nihilism in a lot of the protest movements fueled by social media.
Evan Kasakove has five questions for me. The last one:
EK: What would fiscal and monetary policy look like if policymakers understood your book Specialization and Trade?
Kling: Policymakers would have more humility. They would not undertake drastic measures, such as TARP or the COVID relief efforts, or the Fed increasing the size of its balance sheet by orders of magnitude.
Not only are wages still growing, but they are also more stable than ever. Men’s wages still grow (but at a slower rate) and start lower when they are young. This all means men earn less over their lifetime, but they experience less risk—so it’s hard to make a welfare judgement. Other shocking findings are that high-paid CEOs are not to blame for runaway inequality, and most of the 1% are only in the 1% for a few years of their life.
Her post deals with several topics, and on each one she offers an interesting insight.
In a conversation with Richard Hanania, Tyler Cowen says,
Well, his [Jonathan Haidt’s] take on social media, it’s far too negative, and it’s way more negative than the evidence itself justifies in my opinion. And he’s this weird mix of someone who’s such a huge defender of free speech, but when free speech comes on social media, all of a sudden it’s ruining the world. [laughs] And I don’t really get how he squares all those views. It’s not logically impossible, but it’s not an easy or comfortable fit either.
Tyler also points out that social media behavior could be endogenous. That is, we have a society that is going nuts for other reasons, and the nuttiness plays out on social media.
Social media’s effect is clearly not endogenous. Humans have always been nutty but we also have a natural negative feedback mechanism in nuttiness, which is our desire for conformity. When we feel we’re the only one with a view, we revert towards the mean.
The earlier internet (eg pre 2010) revealed that every nutty view had many adherents which broke that feedback loop.
But social media – where the nuttier you are, the *more* likes you get – turned it into a positive feedback loop.
The fact that nuttiness existed prior to social media doesn’t absolve it for turning a negative feedback into a positive one.
Tyler makes the hilarious claim that the Woke are not liberal - the same liberals who have re-defined marriage (man+woman to create children) into the legally required normalization of same-sex coupling, which NEVER results in conception of a child of the married couple. The lack of "children" in his discussion about needing more human rights for women is glaring for those looking.
"Marriage" is defined by what people call it - "liberals" are those who are called liberals, formerly welfare liberals or politically correct liberals.
Tyler transcripts are far far better than Brian Chau's, so far.
Among the 5 questions asked, you've highlighted your weakest response to "what would fiscal & monetary policy look like"? Yes, policy makers should be more humble, with humility, but NOT doing X, Y, or Z does not describe what IS done, or what it looks like. The Taylor rule on Fed Policy, would be part of a better answer. Nationalization instead of bankruptcy for Too Big companies might be another.
US colleges should have at least 20% of their professors and administrators be Republican, pro-life, anti-illegal immigration, pro-capitalism.