Friday, May 25, 2018

Bryan Caplan's Case Against Education and Effective Altruism

Bryan Caplan was interviewed by Rob Wiblin of Effective Altruism and they got me thinking about how much schooling the charities we support try to provide.

I think we should push for breath over depth.

1 year of schooling for all before we go to 2 years for some.
2 year of schooling for all before we go to 3 years for some.
3 year of schooling for all before we go to 4 years for some.

And the some beyond 4 years should be small, maybe only the 10% should continue beyond the 3rd grade.

Perhaps cut that in half after 12 years and only 5% go to University.

Then perhaps half of those go on to graduate school because these are the students who could greatly help push science and technology forward. 

Schools in the first 3 years should focus on reading, writing, arithmetic, basic algebra, basic general science and skills that are useful in life and in demand in their country. For us being outsiders knowing what skills are in demand is difficult. If the demand is for basic manufacturing workers teach those skills that would help with that, if agriculture focus or tourism focus on those skills, trading skills might be important (that is how not to be scammed).  but we should not assume that we know. Of course that brings up a point maybe the best thing is to give them cash and make some education available at a low price and let them buy what they see as valuable.

The problem people point out with having students stop going to school so early, is the late bloomers. You would miss out on maximising the production by missing the late bloomers.

I am one of those who would have been left behind  because I am to this day very bad at spelling grammar, I was barely advanced even here were we push everyone to higher (I failed 1st grade twice and 2nd grade once).

But that might not be so bad because, that is where the great auto-mechanics, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs come from.

Some random related data points that support my idea:

  • Even with the system that we have, the most impressive artist I have know was an electrician.
  • My son's boss is a plumber who just graduated high school, he started a business and is a millionaire at about 30 years old.
  • My grandparents went to school for just 1 year and ran a successful barber shop, speculated in real-estate were not ignorant and sent there son to Brown University.
  •  Immigrants are often ill suited for running service businesses but are forced into it and make a lot of money.
  • School completion in not important for  entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

On Government Charity Nothing Happens until and if the Bond Market Turns on US T-Bills.

The Niskanen center has has a post: The Free-Market Welfare State: Preserving dynamism in a volatile world

 My comments:

Seems to me that in the USA we spend more than enough money on what I call Government charity, but that we spend it very inefficiently. For example if we changed Social Security to be like the government part the Australian pension system, where everyone over some age gets the same amount of money we could use the savings to help the non-old low income people. Maybe greatly increase the EITC. Also ideally Medicare would pay out less to providers.

But for now any politician who proposes such will be destroyed by the AARP.

We also waste a lot of money on administration in schooling with little evidence that it helps educate better. (And of course our Defence spending is ridiculously high but that is not Government charity.)

Cut all those and we might be able to do a UBI and good healthcare scheme.

But the political reality is nothing happens until and if the bond market turns on US treasury bills.

Monday, April 9, 2018


Here is Arnold Kling on what he calls Legamorons which are laws not meant to be enforced.

many laws are the legal equivalent of oxymorons – legamorons, if you will. A legamoron is any law that could not stand up under widespread enforcement. Laws against marijuana use are a prime example. Rigorous enforcement of these laws on middle-class college campuses would cause a furor.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Medical Treatment of King Charles

Swiped from here.

On February 2, 1685, England’s King Charles II was struck by a sudden illness. Fortunately his physicians were the best of the best. To reassure the public they were kept abreast of the King’s treatment regimen. King Charles was made to swallow a toxic metal; had blistering agents applied to his scalp; had pigeon droppings attached to his feet; was prodded with a red-hot poker; given forty drops of ooze from “the skull of a man that was never buried”; and, finally, had crushed stones from the intestines of an East Indian goat forced down his throat. Sadly, despite these heroic efforts, he passed away the following week.
Why did the doctors go this far?
Prof Robin Hanson – Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University – suspects that on top of any medical beliefs the doctors had a hidden motive: it needed to be clear, to the King and the public, that the physicians cared enormously about saving His Royal Majesty. Only extreme measures could make it undeniable that they had done everything they could.
If you believe Hanson, the same desire to prove we care about our family and friends explains much of what’s perverse about our medical system today.
And not only what’s perverse about medicine – Robin thinks we’re mostly kidding ourselves when we say our charities exist to help others, our schools exist to educate students, and our political expression is about choosing wise policies.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Poverty in the USA

Lots to discuss about this. I will preface this with the fact that I may be out of touch with low income because I have been doing well for a long time now, but at 28 I was working for just a little more than minimum wage.

1. Of course some people have no income due to poor health, they mostly are on SSDI.

2. I think the studies about poverty that talk about the stress of poverty are not about what we call poverty in the first world.

3. Measured by consumption there is very little poverty in the USA see here:

4. Recently there was an article, I cannot find it, about how positive about the future people in El Paso TX are. Also the people working in the little Chinese restaurants around here are probably working for less than minimum wage but I bet most are optimistic about the future. So perhaps a more positive message would help, say: “You can do it like this guy:

5. One of my impressions is that many people in the USA that are low income and have no or negative wealth are there because the do not worry and so do not save and hold off on consumption. Am I wrong? Maybe they are right to think like that, as starvation is virtually unknown in the USA.

6. Some people talk about people having too live in a bad neighborhood, but we cannot all be above average. So that is unsolvable, although more and better police might help. and here: Also legalizing drugs might help in 2 ways:

7. Nevertheless we are very rich in the USA and a UBI or an hourly wage subsidy to replace the complex and convoluted matrix of programs that we current;y have for least capable among us. The trick is to do it with while minimizing the negative incentive affects.

8. Certainly the church could, should do more but it is very fragmented now and without the big denominations building new hospitals, old age homes, orphanages is difficult. I think some of that is due to crowding out by government. The mutual aid societies have been almost completely displaced. Further according to sociologist Charles Murray, today poor people tend to not go to church any more.

Some really Good News on Extreme Poverty Worldwide

Some really good new on extreme poverty worldwide here.

The most important conclusion from the evidence presented in this entry is that extreme poverty, as measured by consumption, has been going down around the world in the last two centuries. But why should we care? Is it not the case that poor people might have less consumption but enjoy their lives just as much—or even more—than people with much higher consumption levels?


According to these household surveys, 44% of the world population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of poor people in the world has declined very fast—in fact, faster than ever before in world history. In 32 years, the share of people living in extreme poverty was divided by 4, reaching levels below 11% in 2013. Although the World Bank estimates for 2015 are not yet available, the projections suggest that the incidence of extreme poverty has fallen below 10% for that year.

Social Security Complaints

I think what makes people angry is that the system was designed specifically to fool them (for their own good of course.) Social Security is a welfare program (maybe a good and necessary one, maybe not) that was disguised as a Ponzi scheme to make is palatable to the voters. That's because in the 1930's people liked to think that they did not get welfare. The SS system was brilliantly designed to make people think it that what they get is based on what they contribute but that's not really completely accurate, the system is fairly progressive. That is low earners get much more back based on what they contribute (I think that is a good thing) see: Here is spreadsheet that I made: BTW when debating taxes if FICA is a tax rather than forced savings then SS is welfare, if it is forced savings then you cannot really include it when talking about how much taxes wage earners pay verses the rich. IMHO we in the USA should slowly move toward a system like Australia has, where all retired citizens get the same monthly payment from Government portion of the retirement system. Under such a system the needy would get more and the wealthy would get less.

PIA definition The "primary insurance amount" (PIA) is the benefit (before rounding down to next lower whole…