Nation of Beancounters

*Slate Star Codex*

Posted in Vapor Mill by Navin Kumar on July 9, 2014

Slate Star Codex is an excellent blog that I just finished binge reading. Here are some of my favorite posts:

1. Right is the new left.

2. Weak men are superweapons.

3. “When you’re being out-tolerated by the frickin’ Catholics, you need to reconsider some of your life choices.” Scott Alexander’s OKCupid protest account.

4. Friendship is counter-signaling.

5. “I am triggered by social justice.

6. The political spectrum quiz. I scored 6.

7. Social psychology is a flame-thrower.

8. 3% of men will be falsely accused of rape.

9. Biological explanations for historical trends in crime.

10. A review of creepy sleep disorders.

11. Polyamory is boring.

12. On rape culture.

13. An explanation of Reaction, and the rebuttal.

14. Highlights from a forensic psychiatry conference.

15. Alexander is against bravery debates. He later realizes that all debates are bravery debates.

16. Social justice and words, words, words.

17. Arguments about male violence prove too much.

18. Proving too much.

19. Why polls fail, or noisy poll results and reptilian Muslim climatologists from Mars.

20. My objections to “objectification.” I’ve written something similar.

21. Not just a political issue. A thorny question.

22. “I propose that the best way for leftists to get themselves in a rightist frame of mind is to imagine there is a zombie apocalypse tomorrow.” Link.


Posted in Uncategorized by Navin Kumar on July 7, 2014

1. Megan McArdle speculate brilliantly on what factors are responsible for shitty personal finance. Universal, and a must read.

2. “Love is not enough.

3. In what ways are firms inefficient?

4. Eugene Volokh wins the cultural appropriation debate. Extended analysis here.

5. Why poor people buy status symbols. Speculative but interesting.

Why do so many cultures haze?

Posted in Uncategorized by Navin Kumar on October 24, 2013

Cimino suggested that in some human ancestral environments, aspects of hazing might have served to protect veteran members from threats posed by newcomers. “It’s almost as though the period of time around group entry was deeply problematic,” he said. “This may have been a time during which coalitions were exploited by newcomers. Our intuitions about how to treat newcomers may reflect this regularity of the past. Abusing newcomers –– hazing –– may have served to temporarily alter their behavior, as well as select out uncommitted newcomers when membership was non-obligatory.”

More here.

How to bargain if you’re handicapped

Posted in Imperfect Information Problem by Navin Kumar on March 3, 2012

…one field experiment examined discrimination against disabled people in the context of car repairs, finding that disabled customers received higher quotes than the non-disabled customers. To get at the nature of this discrimination, the authors first conducted a survey, which revealed that “mechanics believe the disabled approach 1.85 body shops for price quotes while the non-disabled approach 2.85.”  In a second field experiment, the authors instructed participants to say the phrase, “I’m getting a few price quotes.”  This significantly changed outcomes — disabled participants received much lower offers: “Importantly, the lower offers received by disabled testers after signaling a willingness to search are not statistically different from those received by the abled,” write the authors. “In fact, the disabled now receive slightly lower price quotes.”

From Freakonomics.

The reason that disabled people get higher quotes is because all firms have – in a very narrow sense – “monopoly power”. In order to get another quote, the customer would have to physically travel to another repair store, probably far away. Disabled people face higher costs getting quotes than normal people and so the degree of monopoly power is greater. But by declaring that you’re merely “getting quotes”, you’re signalling the fact that you’ll be visiting the competition, dramatically reducing the monopoly power that firms have.

Lessons: competition is important; market bottlenecks are everywhere; signaling is important.

Another lesson arises: non-credible signals matter. Economists tend to emphasize that how credible a signal is more important than the signal. You say you’ll nuke the USSR if they enter Afghanistan – but would you really? Unless you can credibly commit to a mechanism to do so, you won’t be taken seriously. But here, even though the repairmen know that it’s costly for the disabled to go to the competition, the statement works. (There’s probably something Bayesian going on: this chap might price-compare or might not. Let me act like the probability is 50-50. Wait – did he just say that would? Better revise probabilities to 90% going -10% not.)

Sometimes people don’t price-shop because they slip up and get lazy without realizing it. Being aware that one ought is a powerful motivator.