Sunday Long Reads

How can God be sure that this no Super-God?

There’s a strong instinct to abdicate that responsibility – to look at things like global warming, poverty, environmental destruction, human misery in all its forms and say “God will take care of that.” The truth is, whether you like it or not, it’s all on you. The responsibility for those weaker than yourself is not on God’s or the free market’s or history’s or evolution’s head, it’s on your head.

Noah Smith: God and SuperGod

Privatization of Natural Monopolies

Textbook arguments in favor of privatization: Lower prices. Better service. Greater simplicity. Increased investment in infrastructure. More consumer choice.

Reality: The Average Russian, as opposed to the 135 oligarchs controlling 40% of Russia’s wealth, would have been better off had The Party remained in power.

So, the next time somebody tries to convince you of the benefits of privatizing your natural monopoly, remember that, adapting Frank Zappa’s apt words, there is a big difference between kneeling down before the altar of privatization and bending over.

Freedom To Choose (…to be buggered)

German vs. Swedish approach to prostitution

Germany: enacted a law to remove the stigma from sex work by giving prostitutes full rights to health insurance, pensions and other benefits. Employing sex-workers and providing them with a venue became legal. The idea was that responsible employers running safe and clean brothels would drive pimps out of the market.

Sweden: made it criminal to pay for sex (pimping was already a crime). By stigmatising not the prostitutes but the men who paid them, even putting them in jail, the Swedes hoped to come close to eliminating prostitution.

A giant Teutonic brothel

America: A case of secular stagnation?

During the period 1960-85, when the U.S. economy seemed able to achieve full employment without bubbles, our labor force grew an average 2.1% annually. In part this reflected the maturing of the baby boomers, in part the move of women into the labor force.

Now look forward. The Census projects that the population aged 18 to 64 will grow at an annual rate of only 0.2% between 2015 and 2025. Unless labor force participation not only stops declining but starts rising rapidly again, this means a slower-growth economy, and thanks to the accelerator effect, lower investment demand.

Secular Stagnation, Coalmines, Bubbles, and Larry Summers

The 8 Qualities of Cultured People

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will… Every hour is precious for it.

Anton Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People

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