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Self in Society Roundup 16

Welfare, NIMBYs, perverse incentives, regulatory abuse, CRT, death, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
May 31, 2023

Welfare: As John Cochrane points out, accounting for welfare benefits, "low income Americans face roughly 100% marginal tax rates"; work requirements for welfare tends to result in people taking unproductive jobs and doing "as little as possible"; and current programs incentivize "obtaining more social programs rather than working." In short, implementing sensible welfare programs is hard.

NIMBY: Bryan Caplan argues that many people oppose new housing construction not because they stand to gain financially from restrictions but because they don’t believe additional supply will lower costs. But it will!

Repair Mandates: Minnesota passed a broad so-called "right to repair" bill. I explain what's wrong with such bills in the Colorado context in a first and second article. Calling something a right doesn't make it so; these bills in fact violate rights to freedom of contract.

Incentives Matter: Stat reports: "It became clear that the expensive, implanted batteries Stimwave wanted to free patients from were also the ticket to getting the biggest payouts from insurers. So Stimwave changed its device—first by adding an implanted metal 'receiver' that ostensibly boosted the device’s power, and later, a dummy piece of plastic that did nothing at all." I didn't get behind the paywall; I'd like to know if these insurance policies were influenced by medical payment policies of the federal government.

Regulatory Abuse: The Consumer Product Safety Commission continues its mindless crusade against small recreational magnets. Shihan Qu continues to fight the out-of-control agency.

Econ Prizes: Chicago's Market Shaping Accelerator is offering prizes for solutions to market failures, notes Alex Tabarrok.

Mental Health: "What if these well-intentioned [mental health awareness] campaigns are actually contributing to the problem? What if the more we encourage people—especially young people—to talk about their mental health, the worse they end up feeling?" asks Lucy Foulkes.

Biden: This explains pretty succinctly why I anticipate I’ll be voting for Biden again. Via Michael Huemer.

Schools: Chris Rufo, who I think generally is a bad actor, nevertheless makes a good point that "the public schoolhouse is not a 'free marketplace of ideas,' but a government-run monopoly with compulsory power over children." As I continually say, It's so surprising that government-run schools become so political.

ChatGPT: Apparently a lawyer relying on ChatGPT submitted a brief "replete with citations to non-existent cases." Via Paul Hsieh. I replied, "If you treat ChatGPT like a psychopath—intelligent but likely to lie its ass off—you'll probably do okay with it."

Critical Race Theory: "Critical race theory does not actually say that all white people are oppressors, and that white children should feel guilty for their race," says Sam Hoadley-Brill. Fair enough; my concern is more with certain teachers who teach race issues badly. Read or listen to this entire interview if you want an informed take on the issue.

LGBTQ: Uganda has passed a harsh anti-gay law. "U.S. Evangelicals Helped Homophobia Flourish in Africa," Foreign Policy says.

Death: Sam Harris says, "Whatever you do, however seemingly ordinary, you can feel the preciousness of life. And an awareness of death is the doorway into that way of being."

Dementia: Maybe the shingles vaccine can help prevent it. I had a terrible experience with that vaccine so I hope it pays off!

Libertarian: Apparently the LP is losing members and money. Good. Even the governor of Colorado got in on mocking the "Mises" caucus.

Nuclear War: Robert Wright remains concerned that the conflict in Ukraine could escalate.

Crime: "Forensic firearms analysis" also sucks.

Health: On May 24 I got an email from Amazon advertising virtual primary care for $144 per year.

Science: Tyler Cowen has out an excellent podcast episode with Jess Wade, mostly about women in science and also about Wade's work in nanotech. Also, Wade has out a children's book called Nano that I enjoyed reading to my child.

Math: A free book.

India: Manvir Singh says that, although some people in India did murder women by burning widows on their husbands' funeral pyres, the actual numbers were far less than standard British sources claimed.

Empire: Contra Orwell's prediction, "not only did the UK continue to get rich after the end of empire, the growth rate of GDP increased," writes Alex Tabarrock.

Films: I rewatched Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and what I noticed this time is the awesomeness of Alan Ruck's performance as the anxiety-ridden young man. Also, I watched Clueless again—it is a delightful film, perfectly cast.

Music: The new Sparks album just came out. I like it. (Yes also has out a new album.) Here's a song.

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