Althouse | category: economics



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"Find the Place You Love. Then Move There. If where you live isn’t truly your home, and you have the resources to make a change, it could do wonders for your happiness."

The Atlantic suggests an article for me — from a couple years ago — that's right in my zone. It's by Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic's happiness expert, who — I'd noticed — has a new article in The Atlantic that I'd seen but chose not to click on: "Think About Your Death and Live Better/Contemplating your mortality might sound morbid, but it’s actually a key to happiness."

Did the Atlantic somehow see that I looked at the death article but decided not to read it and calculate that I might want to contemplate falling in love with someplace other than home and moving there? 

The "Find the Place You Love" essay begins with an anecdote about a man who grew up in Minnesota, moved to Northern California, and then missed Minnesota. When I read the title, I thought the idea was to cast a wide net, consider everywhere, and fall in love with something. But if it's just look back on your life and understand what was your real home, that's a much more restricted set of options. There's a good chance you already live in what is for you the most home-like place, and if you were to leave, thinking you'd found a better place — Northern California is "better" than Minnesota — you'd become vividly aware of the feeling of home

There is a word for love of a place: topophilia, popularized by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan in 1974 as all of “the human being’s affective ties with the material environment.” In other words, it is the warm feelings you get from a place. It is a vivid, emotional, and personal experience, and it leads to unexplainable affections....

It is worth reflecting on your strongest positive synesthetic tendencies—and the place they remind you of. They are a good guide to your topophilic ideal, and thus an important factor to be aware of as you design a physical future in line with your happiness. 

Could a place that has never been your home become the place you love in this way? It's possible that none of your homes over the years ever felt like home? What is this idealized notion that there's a place that's "truly your home"?  

It makes me think of the old gospel song "I Can't Feel at Home in This World Anymore":

This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue;
Where many Christian children have gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore 
Over in glory land there is no dying there
The saints are shouting Victory and singing everywhere
I hear the voice of Nell that I have heard before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore...

Heaven's expecting me that's one thing I know
I fixed it up with Jesus a long time ago
He will take me through though I am weak and poor
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore....

Back to "Find the Place You Love. Then Move There": 

Among the entrepreneurs I studied, I noticed a tendency to put personal capital at risk in exchange for explosive rewards—rewards that can be hard to see at the time the risk is taken, but that the entrepreneurs intuitively feel will come. As the economist Joseph Schumpeter described the entrepreneur’s impulse, “there is the dream and the will to found a private kingdom.”... [Y]ou can... be an entrepreneur in the truest sense, occupied in the enterprise of building your life, your private kingdom. And sometimes, that means risking your emotional capital for explosive rewards that you feel in your heart will come.

"I know people want to get their kids and travel. I get that. However, I never flew until I was 19+ yrs."

" parents could not afford to fly. Even tho we had a decent middle class lifestyle we never flew any where on a vacation when I was a kid. Now. I HATE people who drag their infants/toddlers on a plane. Put your kid in the seat, like a car seat, and they'll fall asleep. On your lap they are squirming, screaming little terrors and possibly a 20-30lb projectile. If you INSIST on flying with small children, secure them in their OWN SEAT !!!! If you can't afford the extra ticket then DON"T FLY to your destination!"

That's putting it brutally — in the comments to the WaPo article "Flight attendants want to ban lap-babies on planes/Experts agree that flying with a baby in your lap is a safety risk, but regulators still allow it." 

This isn't really about safety, is it? Safety is the leverage. The truth is people don't like babies and toddlers on planes and requiring them to have a paid-for seat will lower the number of these deprecated humans. 

"In a recent memoir, the actor Matthew Perry, of 'Friends' reveals that his parents spent the hours before his birth playing the board game Monopoly."

"It was an unhappy marriage, Perry writes, and they divorced when he was a baby.... Most aficionados agree that Monopoly, if not a bad game, is at the very least designed to embitter its players.... But in... a new PBS documentary, we learn that... [t]he game... originally designed in 1903, by Lizzie Magie, a charismatic feminist, actor, and poet... Stephen Ives, [the] documentarian ...was once eager to introduce his children to Monopoly. 'It’s like the early Beatles or Disneyland or something....When are they going to be ready? What you don’t really realize is that you’re performing this ritualistic introduction to raw, unbridled American-style capitalism. You’re saying, "This is how society works. This is how you have fun, and crush other people."'... Games are systems, and... a shrewd designer can steer players toward a particular viewpoint through their experience of that system.... The game disguises luck as skill, misrepresents the American Dream, and promises wealth and power at the expense of others. Only in its final moments do we see the victor’s most enduring reward: isolation

Even as the "shrewd designer can steer players toward a particular viewpoint," the shrewd documentarian will steer viewers toward a particular viewpoint.

I can think of admirable documentarians who don't steer you — at least not as precisely as PBS sounds like it's doing — but they don't deserve to be called "shrewd." That doesn't mean just clever. It means evil or at least malignant or mischievous. 

"Shrewd" is based on "shrew," a little animal who gave its name to "A person, esp. (now only) a woman given to railing or scolding or other perverse or malignant behaviour; frequently a scolding or turbulent wife." 

Why is it we easily feel the misogyny in "shrew" but not in "shrewd"?

"The labor market shattered expectations in January, as the economy added 517,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent, a low not seen since May 1969..."

"... according to data released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains had been steadily dropping for months, but January’s stunning job growth reflects unexpected tightness in the labor market, even amid fears of a looming recession as high profile layoffs spread across the tech industry. The Federal Reserve has been in an all-out effort to lower inflation, hoping it can manage to hoist interest rates without slowing the economy so much that it undercuts strength in the labor market. But that task appears much more difficult to pull off...."

"I see that you're going to get rid of your piano. Good luck with that. We couldn't even give ours away so I took it apart and cut it up..."

"... and got rid of it by putting it in the trash over a 4 week period. I broke up the string harp with a sledge hammer. Used a drill to loosen the strings then just cut them off." 

Said William50 in last night's "Snow Car" café

He was referring to something I said in passing in an earlier post — that I had looked up "Flatter!," because it was part of an image on a card that I found in the piano bench, which I was emptying out because I'm getting rid of the piano. 

Breaking up a piano made me think about this great 80s video where they destroy a piano: 

And since you mentioned the harp inside, we must remember when Harpo Marx went nuts on a piano and extracted the harp:

But here's how I responded to William50 (who may not have  noticed that I'd already revealed in the comments on the other post that I am paying a professional piano dealer to move the piano out of our house and to dispose of it properly):
Meade suggested doing something like [what you did]. I see multiple reasons to prefer to pay a reputable piano dealer $360 to swiftly spirit the whole hulk out of the house. 
1. It's a lot of work taking the thing [apart] and lugging it [out to] the street, consuming time and effort and possibly resulting in injury to yourself and damage to doorjambs and floors. 
2. It would sit out there on the terrace for all to see and to find ugly and offensively wasteful. 
3. It will burden the city -- and the taxpayers -- to need to pick up these pieces and carry them away. 
4. The reputable piano dealer is experience[d] in disposing of pianos and may find an actual home for the intact piano. 
5. The piano will sit in its usual place, unmolested, until professionals come in and skillfully remove it in one piece. This is a company I have used 3 or 4 times in the past to move this piano from room to room, and I [trust] them to do it well. 
6. I like supporting a good local business! They deserve to be paid for the work that they do. You don't have to use your own labor just because you (or your partner) can perform labor. We're doing a lot of painting this winter, putting labor into that, but if I had a local business I trusted to do this work well and without needing to spend too much time in our house, I would be glad to pay someone. 
7. $360 may sound like a lot, especially if you believe your beautiful piano should be worth at least $5,000, but I choose to live in the real world, where prices are determined by supply and demand. Accept reality and make your time living in it as good as you can. Maybe you enjoyed sledgehammering a piano. I hope you did!

"TikTok and ByteDance employees regularly engage in 'heating,' a manual push that ensures specific videos 'achieve a certain number of video views'..."

"... according to six sources and documents reviewed by Forbes," says Forbes, in "TikTok’s Secret ‘Heating’ Button Can Make Anyone Go Viral."
For years, TikTok has described its powerful For You Page as a personalized feed ranked by an algorithm that predicts your interests based on your behavior in the app. But that’s not the full story....

I'll have to give some more thought to how nefarious this is. 

Cory Doctorow seems to think it exemplifies the awfulness of all sorts of things: "Tiktok's enshittification."

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them....

ADDED:  I had to go out for my encounter with the sunrise, so I didn't add one last observation, which is that I've observed Spotify doing something like this. For a long time, Spotify has been foisting Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" on me. Does it relate to other things I've listened to or is the Nick Drake industry paying off Spotify? The single-minded focus on "Pink Moon" makes me think it's not the usual algorithm and there's some alternate route into my ear. And a few days ago, out of nowhere, Spotify suddenly and repeatedly pushed J.J. Cale at me. That's just not natural!, I think... as if any of this is natural. But I want it to feel natural, natural within artificiality, and not like somebody paid for this access to me.

"[S]ome Democrats—many of whom call themselves progressives—have in meaningful ways become anti-progress..."

"... at least where material improvement is concerned. Progress depends on a society’s ability to build what it knows. But very often, it’s progressives who stand against building what we’ve already invented, including relatively ancient technology like nuclear power or even apartment buildings."

From "WHY THE AGE OF AMERICAN PROGRESS ENDED/Invention alone can’t change the world; what matters is what happens next" By Derek Thompson (The Atlantic).

Cities and states run by Democrats have erected so many barriers to construction that blue metro areas are now where the housing crisis is worst. The five states with the highest rates of homelessness are New York, Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington; all are run by Democrats. Meanwhile, it is often left-leaning environmentalist groups that use onerous rules to delay the construction of wind and solar farms that would reduce our dependency on oil and gas.

The left owns all the backpack pins denouncing the oil industry, but Texas produces more renewable energy than deep-blue California, and Oklahoma and Iowa produce more renewable energy than New York. One possible explanation is that progressives have become too focused on what are essentially negative prescriptions for improving the world, including an emphasis on preservation and sacrifice (“reduce, reuse, recycle”) over growth (“build, build, build”).

At the extreme, this ascetic style leads to calls for permanent declines in modern living standards, a philosophy known as “degrowtherism.”...

Lots more in that article. I just wanted to quote the bit about "degrowtherism." I don't think I've seen that word before, but here's Wikipedia article "Degrowth," which is full of things that have been very familiar for a long time. Excerpt:

The contemporary degrowth movement can trace its roots back to the anti-industrialist trends of the 19th century, developed in Great Britain by John Ruskin, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement (1819–1900), in the United States by Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), and in Russia by Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)....

In 1968, the Club of Rome, a think tank headquartered in Winterthur, Switzerland, asked researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a report on the limits of our world system and the constraints it puts on human numbers and activity. The report, called The Limits to Growth, published in 1972, became the first significant study to model the consequences of economic growth....

"I have come to view cryptocurrencies not simply as exotic assets but as a manifestation of a magical thinking that had come to infect part of the generation..."

"... who grew up in the aftermath of the Great Recession — and American capitalism, more broadly. For these purposes, magical thinking is the assumption that favored conditions will continue on forever without regard for history. It is the minimizing of constraints and trade-offs in favor of techno-utopianism and the exclusive emphasis on positive outcomes and novelty. It is the conflation of virtue with commerce.... The fundamentals of business have not changed merely because of new technologies or low interest rates. The way to prosper is still by solving problems in new ways that sustainably deliver value to employees, capital providers and customers.... All those new investors and crypto owners may nurse a grudge against capitalism, rather than understand the perverse world they were born into.... Speculative assets without any economic function should be worth nothing...."

Writes Harvard law and business professor Mihir A. Desai, in "The Crypto Collapse and the End of the Magical Thinking That Infected Capitalism" (NYT).

"You can’t insist that the immediate economic benefits of ending a pregnancy should be counted in Roe v. Wade’s favor, but any of the larger negative shifts in mating and marriage..."

"... and child rearing associated with abortion can’t be considered as part of the debate.... [Consider a] world clearly shadowed by the effects of family breakdown and social atomization, with loneliness and despair stalking young and old alike... population aging, population decline, childless cities and empty hinterlands and a vast inverted demographic pyramid on the shoulders of the young.... [And look at] the most influential voices in our aging, unhappy, stagnation-shadowed society — the most educated and impassioned and articulate, the most self-consciously devoted to the idea of progress — committing and recommitting themselves to the view that nothing is so important as to continue ensuring that hundreds of thousands of unborn lives can be ended in utero every year.... ... I beseech you to consider that you are making a mistake."

Writes Ross Douthat in "Does American Society Need Abortion?" (NYT).

"South Korea recently broke its own record for the world’s lowest fertility rate. Figures released in November..."

"... showed the average number of children a South Korean woman will have in her lifetime is down to just 0.79. That is far below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population and low even compared to other developed countries where the rate is falling, such as the United States (1.6) and Japan – which at 1.3 reported its own lowest rate on record. And it spells trouble for a country with an aging population that faces a looming shortage of workers to support its pension system.... [M]ore than $200 billion has been spent trying to boost the population over the past 16 years.... A monthly allowance for parents with babies up to 1-year-old will increase from the current 300,000 won to 700,000 won ($230 to $540) in 2023 and to 1 million Korean won ($770) by 2024.... Government-funded nurseries are free..."

From "South Korea spent $200 billion, but it can’t pay people enough to have a baby" (CNN).

"Lee Jin-song, who has written books about the trend of young people choosing not to get married or have a baby... pointed to a common joke that in South Korea, 'if you are not dating by the time you are 25, you’ll turn into a crane, meaning if you’re single you become non-human.' She said society considers her, and others like her, selfish for not conforming to the traditional expectations of marriage and children, 'neglecting their duties for society only for the sake of their happiness.'"

There's a problem with that pro-child propaganda. To my ear, it conveys the message that you'd should not have children. You're supposed to do it for the good of the group, not for your own happiness, and the more money they throw at you, the more it emphasizes how expensive it will be to have a child. And that crane "joke" is just overtly dehumanizing. 

Even if you want to do what is good for society, how much can your one or 2 children change such a gigantic trend? It's such a huge personal change to have a child, but it has only a tiny effect on the country as a whole. That's why they've resorted to big economic incentives (along with bullying). But it's still not enough. 

A 0.79 birthrate!

"I see that you're going to get rid of your piano. Good luck with that. We couldn't even give ours away so I took it apart and cut it up..."

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