Liked a post by Ryan BarrettRyan Barrett (snarfed.org)
One could write an entire book on what this chart shows us. – Max Roser
Holy crap! This graph indicates something is dramatically broken in America. And we wonder why healthcare is such a hot button issue. Obviously someone (or many someones) is making a lot of money keeping the American portion so horribly out of whack.
Read - Want to Read: The Constitution of Liberty by F. A. Hayek (University of Chicago Press)
From the $700 billion bailout of the banking industry to president Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package to the highly controversial passage of federal health-care reform, conservatives and concerned citizens alike have grown increasingly fearful of big government. Enter Nobel Prize-winning economist and political theorist F. A. Hayek, whose passionate warning against empowering states with greater economic control, The Road to Serfdom, became an overnight sensation last summer when it was endorsed by Glenn Beck. The book has since sold over 150,000 copies.
The latest entry in the University of Chicago Press's series of newly edited editions of Hayek's works, The Constitution of Liberty is, like Serfdom, just as relevant to our present moment. The book is considered Hayek's classic statement on the ideals of freedom and liberty, ideals that he believes have guided--and must continue to guide--the growth of Western civilization. Here Hayek defends the principles of a free society, casting a skeptical eye on the growth of the welfare state and examining the challenges to freedom posed by an ever expanding government--as well as its corrosive effect on the creation, preservation, and utilization of knowledge. In opposition to those who call for the state to play a greater role in society, Hayek puts forward a nuanced argument for prudence. Guided by this quality, he elegantly demonstrates that a free market system in a democratic polity--under the rule of law and with strong constitutional protections of individual rights--represents the best chance for the continuing existence of liberty.
Striking a balance between skepticism and hope, Hayek's profound insights are timelier and more welcome than ever before. This definitive edition of The Constitution of Liberty will give a new generation the opportunity to learn from his enduring wisdom.
Read - Want to Read: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents by F. A. Hayek (University of Chicago Press)
An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944--when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program--The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader's Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.
With this new edition, The Road to Serfdom takes its place in the series The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. The volume includes a foreword by series editor and leading Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell explaining the book's origins and publishing history and assessing common misinterpretations of Hayek's thought. Caldwell has also standardized and corrected Hayek's references and added helpful new explanatory notes. Supplemented with an appendix of related materials ranging from prepublication reports on the initial manuscript to forewords to earlier editions by John Chamberlain, Milton Friedman, and Hayek himself, this new edition of The Road to Serfdom will be the definitive version of Hayek's enduring masterwork.
Liked a tweet (Twitter)
Some fascinating cultural anthropology going on here.
Read Hollywood has a talent pipeline problem. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have an app for that (Los Angeles Times)
Impact Creative Systems, an offshoot from Imagine Entertainment, is launching a new app called the Creative Network, a LinkedIn-meets-Slack for screenwriters and studio heads.
I’ll have to take a look at this, but I’m not really sure what the direct problem is that they’re solving for. The bigger problem is usually filtering through a load of crap to find the actual talent, and I’m not sure how this app is fixing that particular problem. They may be making the net wider which is good, but there’s still the filtering problem which is the bigger problem. 
 
Naturally getting talented people to help mentor people is a good thing, but it’s also the piece that almost never happens because it takes a lot of time and effort and doesn’t always pay off. I’m not sure where their system is adding value aside from a few links.
 
This definitely disintermediates the agent in the system, so perhaps the extra value is seen in circumventing them to take advantage of the unwary writer one is mentoring?
Read Your Local Bookstore Wants You to Know That It’s Struggling (nytimes.com)
Independent booksellers are desperate for customers to return, and not just for an online reading.
Bookmarked on: Oct 15, 2020 at 20:19


Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., sends personalized URLs to customers with a list of handpicked recommendations. 

Perhaps if they went the step further to set up domains for their customers, they could ostensibly use them not only as book blogs, but also to replace their social media habits?

An IndieWeb friendly platform run by your local bookseller might be out of their wheelhouse, but it could potentially help solve their proximal problem while also solving one of society’s problems all while helping to build community.
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:51PM

Take Vroman’s Bookstore, a 126-year-old institution in Pasadena, Calif. It has more than 200 employees, 20,000 square feet of space and the rent to go along with it. In a normal year, it hosts anywhere from 300 to 400 events, bringing in authors for readings and signings, along with customers who buy books and maybe a glass of wine from the bar. But none of that is happening this year. 

Coincidentally I bought two books at Vroman’s yesterday and it looked reasonably busy for mid-day. (Maybe because of this article?)

It’s a bit disingenuous to mention wine at their bar as their wine bar was only finally open for a minute before the pandemic shut everything down.
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:54PM

Like many other stores, Vroman’s is hosting online events to promote new books, which can attract attendees from all over the country but generally bring in almost no money. 

Maybe they need a book paywall for admission into those events? Buy a book to get the zoom code to get into the event?

David Dylan Thomas essentially did this for his recent book launch.
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:55PM

In the best of times, the margins at a bookstore are paper thin — traditionally, a successful shop hopes to make 2 percent in profits — but operating during a pandemic is even more expensive. 

Yes—they said paper thin…
Annotated on October 16, 2020 at 12:57PM

Read Opinion | California, Reject Prop 22 (nytimes.com)
Gig workers deserve the dignity of fair compensation.

Are gig workers employees or freelance contractors? It’s been a question for companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash for nearly as long as “gig work” itself — or at least the Silicon Valley version — has existed. California voters next month may finally help settle the matter.
This is another great example of companies attempting to privatize profits and socialize the losses, or in this case pass along the losses and lost productivity to their employees (or as described here their independent contractors).

Why can’t they do some of the hard “technology” work and solve the problem of helping their workers become dramatically more productive?

Annotated on October 13, 2020 at 10:58PM 

The backlash from gig economy companies was immediate, and Uber and similar app-based businesses have committed nearly $200 million to support a state ballot measure — making it the costliest in state history — that would exempt them from the law. 

This is a pretty good indicator that it will save them 10x to 100x this amount to get rid of this law.

One should ask: “Why don’t they accept it and just pass this money along to their employees.”

Annotated on October 13, 2020 at 10:50PM

Quoted The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook & Andy Cameron (Mute)
We need to debate what kind of hypermedia suit our vision of society - how we create the interactive products and on-line services we want to use, the kind of computers we like and the software we find most useful. We need to find ways to think socially and politically about the machines we develop. While learning from the can-do attitude of the Californian individualists, we also must recognise that the potentiality of hypermedia can never solely be realised through market forces. We need an economy which can unleash the creative powers of hi-tech artisans. Only then can we fully grasp the Promethean opportunities of hypermedia as humanity moves into the next stage of modernity. 
As true today as it was 25 years ago.
Read The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron (Mute)
The California Ideology is a mix of cybernetics, free market economics, and counter-culture libertarianism and is promulgated by magazines such as WIRED and MONDO 2000 and preached in the books of Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and others.

Lacking the free time of the hippies, work itself ho become the main route to self-fulfilment for much of the,virtual class’. 

They’re right that overwork and identification with work has become all too prevalent over the past several decades.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:11AM

Community activists will increasingly use hypermedia to replace corporate capitalism and big government with a hi-tech ‘gift economy’ in which information is freely exchanged between participants. 

I know the idea “gift economy” was around in the late 2000’s and even more prevalent in the teens, but not sure where it originated. This is one of the earliest sitings I’ve seen.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:15AM

In this version of the Californian Ideology, each member of the ‘virtual class’ is promised the opportunity to become a successful hi-tech entrepreneur. 

In retrospect, it’s really only made a much higher disparity between the top and the bottom.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:19AM

Almost every major technological advance of the last two hundred years has taken place with the aid of large amounts of public money and under a good deal of government influence. The technologies of the computer and the Net were invented with the aid of massive state subsidies. 

examples of government (public) funding for research and it’s effects
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:23AM

Americans have always had state planning, but they prefer to call it the defence budget. 

Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:24AM

Entrepreneurs often have an inflated sense of their own ‘creative act of will’ in developing new ideas and give little recognition to the contributions made by either the state or their own labour force. 

Techbro hubris
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:25AM

When Japanese companies threatened to take over the American microchip market, the libertarian computer capitalists of California had no ideological qualms about joining a state-sponsored cartel organised by the state to fight off the invaders from the East! 

A good example of so-called capitalists playing the do as we say and not as we do game.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:27AM

In American folklore, the nation was built out of a wilderness by free-booting individuals – the trappers, cowboys, preachers, and settlers of the frontier. Yet this primary myth of the American republic ignores the contradiction at the heart of the American dream: that some individuals can prosper only through the suffering of others. The life of Thomas Jefferson – the man behind the ideal of `Jeffersonian democracy’ – clearly demonstrates the double nature of liberal individualism. The man who wrote the inspiring call for democracy and liberty in the American declaration of independence was at the same time one of the largest slave-owners in the country. 

Some profound ideas here about the “American Dream” and the dark underbelly of what it may take to achieve not only for individuals, but to do so at scale.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:29AM

Working for hi-tech and new media corporations, many members of the ‘virtual class’ would like to believe that new technology will somehow solve America’s social, racial and economic problems without any sacrifices on their part. 

In retrospect, this has turned out to be all-too-true.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:31AM

Slave labour cannot be obtained without somebody being enslaved. At his estate at Monticello, Jefferson invented many ingenious gadgets – including a ‘dumb waiter’ to mediate contact with his slaves. In the late twentieth century, it is not surprising that this liberal slave-owner is the hero of those who proclaim freedom while denying their brown-skinned fellow citizens those democratic rights said to be inalienable. 

This is a powerful example
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:33AM

Abandoning democracy and social solidarity, the Californian Ideology dreams of a digital nirvana inhabited solely by liberal psychopaths. 

And nearly twenty years later, isn’t that roughly what we’ve got? (aside from the digital nirvana, which didn’t work out so well.)
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:35AM

Read - Want to Read: The Weirdest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A bold, epic account of how the co-evolution of psychology and culture created the peculiar Western mind that has profoundly shaped the modern world.
Perhaps you are WEIRD: raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. If so, you're rather psychologically peculiar.
Unlike much of the world today, and most people who have ever lived, WEIRD people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. They focus on themselves--their attributes, accomplishments, and aspirations--over their relationships and social roles. How did WEIRD populations become so psychologically distinct? What role did these psychological differences play in the industrial revolution and the global expansion of Europe during the last few centuries?
In The WEIRDest People in the World, Joseph Henrich draws on cutting-edge research in anthropology, psychology, economics, and evolutionary biology to explore these questions and more. He illuminates the origins and evolution of family structures, marriage, and religion, and the profound impact these cultural transformations had on human psychology. Mapping these shifts through ancient history and late antiquity, Henrich reveals that the most fundamental institutions of kinship and marriage changed dramatically under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church. It was these changes that gave rise to the WEIRD psychology that would coevolve with impersonal markets, occupational specialization, and free competition--laying the foundation for the modern world.
Provocative and engaging in both its broad scope and its surprising details, The WEIRDest People in the World explores how culture, institutions, and psychology shape one another, and explains what this means for both our most personal sense of who we are as individuals and also the large-scale social, political, and economic forces that drive human history. Includes black-and-white illustrations.
Judith Shulevitz in Review: ‘The WEIRDest People in the World,’ by Joseph Henrich – The Atlantic () cf read

Rhitu Chatterjee in How The Medieval Church’s Obsession With Incest Shaped Western Values Today : Goats and Soda : NPR () cf read

Read A New Theory of Western Civilization (The Atlantic)
Could a marriage policy first pursued by the Catholic Church a millennium and a half ago explain what made the industrialized world so powerful—and so peculiar?
This is the second article on this book that I’ve seen in the last week or so. Perhaps I should add it to my list?

Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.” 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:03AM

WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing from their own particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all, of course) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology and found that 96 percent of subjects enlisted in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates. Blinded by this kind of myopia, many Westerners assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else. 

This is a painful reality. It’s also even more specific to the current Republican party. Do as we say, not as we do.

This is the sort of example that David Dylan Thomas will appreciate.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:09AM

By the time Protestantism came along, people had already internalized an individualist worldview. Henrich calls Protestantism “the WEIRDest religion,” and says it gave a “booster shot” to the process set in motion by the Catholic Church. Integral to the Reformation was the idea that faith entailed personal struggle rather than adherence to dogma. Vernacular translations of the Bible allowed people to interpret scripture more idiosyncratically. The mandate to read the Bible democratized literacy and education. After that came the inquiry into God-given natural (individual) rights and constitutional democracies. The effort to uncover the laws of political organization spurred interest in the laws of nature—in other words, science. The scientific method codified epistemic norms that broke the world down into categories and valorized abstract principles. All of these psychosocial changes fueled unprecedented innovation, the Industrial Revolution, and economic growth. 

Reading this makes me think about the political break in the United States along political and religious boundaries. Some of Trumps’ core base practices a more personal religion and are generally in areas that don’t display the level of individualism, but focus more on larger paternalistic families. This could be an interesting space for further exploration as it seems to be moving the “progress”(?) described by WEIRD countries backward.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:19AM

If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology. 

This adds more to my prior comment with the addition to Max Weber here. Cross reference some of my reading this past week on his influence on the prosperity gospel.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:21AM

Henrich defends this sweeping thesis with several studies, including a test known as the Triad Task. Subjects are shown three images—say, a rabbit, a carrot, and a cat. The goal is to match a “target object”—the rabbit—with a second object. A person who matches the rabbit with the cat classifies: The rabbit and the cat are animals. A person who matches the rabbit with the carrot looks for relationships between the objects: The rabbit eats the carrot. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:25AM

Toppling the accomplishments of Western civilization off their great-man platforms, he erases their claim to be monuments to rationality: Everything we think of as a cause of culture is really an effect of culture, including us. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:27AM

He refutes genetic theories of European superiority and makes a good case against economic determinism. His quarry are the “enlightened” Westerners—would-be democratizers, globalizers, well-intended purveyors of humanitarian aid—who impose impersonal institutions and abstract political principles on societies rooted in familial networks, and don’t seem to notice the trouble that follows. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:29AM

Read I Crossed Back Into a State of Denial by David FrumDavid Frum (The Atlantic)
At the Canada-U.S. border, I encountered a study in contrasts.

It did not have to be this way. But as Trump aptly said of himself and his policy, “It is what it is.” He accepted more disease in hopes of stimulating a stronger economy and winning reelection. He’s waiting now for the return on that bet. As so often in his reckless career, his speculation seems to be that if the bet wins, he pockets the proceeds. And if the bet fails? The losses fall on others. 

A very apt description of Trump’s life philosophy. Also a broad perspective at how many Republicans and Libertarians seem to view the world economically: privatizing profits and socializing losses.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 10:55AM

Read - Reading: Behavioral Economics When Psychology and Economics Collide by Scott Huettel (The Great Courses)
Lectue 9: Temporal Discounting—Now or Later?
Now consider a fundamental challenge in decisions involving time: temporal discounting, or the human tendency to view rewards as worth less in the future than they are in the present. Study real-life examples of this phenomenon, three explanations for why it occurs, and key approaches to making better time-related decisions.
Finished lecture 9. This is a pretty dense lecture, I’ll circle back around on it at least one more time for notes.

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