1. Megan McArdle speculate brilliantly on what factors are responsible for shitty personal finance. Universal, and a must read.
2. “Love is not enough.“
4. Eugene Volokh wins the cultural appropriation debate. Extended analysis here.
5. Why poor people buy status symbols. Speculative but interesting.
Megan McArdle explains it brilliantly:
When very different groups are trying to live together in one big country (or one big city), you inevitably end up with sharply clashing desires, harshly discordant visions of what constitutes the good life and the public weal. Compromise should be sought where compromise is possible, but sometimes it isn’t; sometimes, the law has to choose one side or another. For the side that loses, this is not just perceived as a loss, but also as a demotion, a relegation to outsider status: The government cares about them, and not me.
More here. It’s US centric, but still one of the most insightful posts I read this year. Needless to say, this facet of democracy is not a happy one.
There are two popular arguments for affirmative action. These are the Argument from Equality and the Argument from Diversity.
The Argument from Equality says that people from different genders, races, castes etc are the same. Members of these groups are equally hardworking, intelligent, enterprising etc. If one group is underrepresented in a field, it isn’t because of the personal characteristics of that group. Blame typically falls on “discrimination” – people treating individuals differently on account of prejudiced beliefs about their race, caste, gender etc. Affirmative action is required to fight such harmful prejudice.
The Argument from Diversity says that people from different social groups aren’t the same. They have different experiences, ideas, strengths etc. Members of a minority group have insights that members of the majority group don’t. Decision making, learning etc is better when there are a variety of perspectives at the table. Thus, preferential treatment for underrepresented minorities is desirable.
Both arguments conclude that institutions should provide favorable treatment to underrepresented social groups. However, they have opposing premises. The Argument from Equality assumes that all people are the same. Thus, under-representation is an injustice. The Argument from Diversity assumes that people from different social groups are different. Thus, some people to have insights that others lack.
A priori, there is nothing fallacious about either argument. However, a person must choose which of the two opposing premises he or she agrees with. If women are different from men, then perhaps it is these differences, rather than workplace discrimination, that causes women to earn less than men. The Argument from Equality fails. If women are the same as men, there is no valuable insight that they bring that men lack. The Argument from Diversity fails. You can either argue from equality, or from diversity, but not both.
“Economics is detested because it doesn’t just study vice it shows that some vices have good consequences”
A good paragraph:
Consequentialist philosophers also look at consequences but economists have the tools to trace interactions as they sort themselves into an equilibrium. Equilibrium outcomes may be very far from intentions. As a result, we find that economists often places themselves and their discipline in opposition to standard morality.
There is no doubt
that his actions are idealistic. But in the grand tradition of The Economist as Suspicious Bastard, one must at least look for a way that his actions benefit Tesla Motors. Here is a bare-bones theory:
1. Electric cars have large spillover effects – the more people own them, the cheaper and more convenient it will be to own one. For example, the more people own them, the larger the number of charging stations on highways. The larger the number of charging stations, the more convenient it will be for you to travel long distances in your car, and the more likely you are to buy one. There will come a tipping point where the facilities to service electric cars rivals the facilities enjoyed by fuel-driven cars.
2. Musk realizes that electric cars will not take off if Tesla is the only company producing them. And, as he notes
electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales. At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.
3. Musk needs other producers to create cars, especially shitty cars in the lower end of the market he doesn’t want his company associated with. So he’s released all of his patents in an effort to stimulate competition.
4. He’s banking on Tesla’s brand (which will no doubt be enhanced by this move) and design/engineering talent to maintain profits even after this competition arises:
Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers.
In economic parlance, the electric car market has external economies of scale that Musk is trying to stimulate.