Collection of papers and articles that I’ve spotted since my previous links post that seem interesting.






CS and AI


  • Piketty's new paper Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right
    • He claims leftism is the ideology of the intellectual elite, rightism is the ideology of the merchant elite. Some evidence also in favour of the "realignment" thesis, whereby the nativism vs globalism dimension becomes more salient and polarising, replacing the old left-right axis.

Bodily redistribution

The "sex redistribution" question has gotten internet on fire, after Robin Hanson made some remarks regarding redistributing sex towards sex-deprived individuals ("incels"). Internet's reaction was quite predictable, an uninteresting. More interesting is seeing this as one more case in the general trend that is people's rationality going out the window around certain topics that are emotionally charged for them.

When writing, there is a tradeoff to be made between being socially acceptable and saying what you think. In private and among openminded peers, the first concern is not an issue, but in open fora the fear of loss of social reputation can stiffle discussion. Hanson is a tenured professor so he doesn't really have to worry, but those that are not so shield from public outrage have to think twice about how to say what they say. Being known as "that sexist creepy dude" could conceivably even hamper one's own career prospects, even when one harbours anything resembling sexist beliefs.

I don't think there is a solution to this. Feelers gonna feel, so we would probably see the discussion of unusual ideas moving away from public view and into anonymous blogs and private Slack group chats, and we will perhaps also see the rise of some sort of shibboleth to identify in public if someone else is the sort of person with whom you can talk openly, or if on the contrary you have to stick to the mandated canon.

But sex redistribution as an abstract hypothetical is not spicy enough for Nintil, so let's talk about taking your kidneys and giving them to the kidneyless.

It is my view that relatively widespread moral views - that lead to endorsing income redistribution - do not obviously end where the body begins. Rawlsians should be particularly worried, and likewise for all those that hold the view that "That which is not deserved can be redistributed away unproblematically". We do not deserve our friends either, should we redistribute friends?

Recently, moral philosopher Cécile Fabre actually made the case -not just mused around- that income redistribution does indeed imply, in that case, organ redistribution. Eric Mack, her opponent in the debate sees this as a reductio of the arguments for income redistribution.

Comments from WordPress

  • The Soviet Union series | Nintil 2018-06-01T20:18:13Z

    […] reply to a commenter here – who gathered some comments made previously in Reddit – regarding the validity of the […]

  • dumky2 dumky2 2018-05-07T21:53:35Z

    I'm probably "psychologizing", but I see some of the outrage at the sex redistribution hypothetical as evidence that (1) the hypothetical is effective, but (2) its logical conclusion creates an intolerable cognitive dissonance with the firmly anchored belief that income distribution is just and good.

    Ironically, many of the response to Hanson (or a strawman of Hanson) argued that "you have no right to someone else's body" (a principle I support). They didn't seem through the implication of that principle on other forms of redistribution... Every "positive right" implies that you have some right to someone else's body (a surgeon's hand for example).

    I wonder how philosophy classes can work nowadays, if thought experiments (like a utility monster harvesting organ from involuntary and innocent donors) can't even be discussed...

  • Mouse Mouse 2018-05-08T09:26:02Z

    Right. It's great the he's standing his ground, but I think he should focus on that parallel more.

  • the_filthy_stalinist the_filthy_stalinist 2018-05-09T15:30:33Z

    Hello. I have not been able to comment about some of your posts in the USSR series, so I will comment here. First I will look at your GDP post:

    You show multiple graphs using the Maddison data to determine Soviet growth in a world context up to the period until 1989. However, I believe that we shouldn't extend the period up to that long. We should rather end the analysis of Soviet growth at around 1958-60. During the 1950s, after Stalin's death, the USSR implemented various decentralization reforms which started impacting growth and started a decline in efficiency from 1958 onwards. The Russian economist Grigorii Khanin analyzed Soviet growth and policies in his article "The 1950s: The Triumph of the Soviet Economy" and came to conclude that "The changes in the economic mechanism and the methods by which it operated noted above meant that by the end of the 1950s the classical command economy system formed in the 1930s-1940s was to a considerable extent dismantled and came to have in many respects only a formal character. This fact played a very important role in the slowdown in the economic development of the USSR from the end of the 1950s. Hence claims that the command economy was the cause of this slow-down are very superficial. Little remained of it by this time.In support of this idea I shall quote the vehemently anti-communist Egor Gaidar and the experienced economic manager N. Nazarbaev. The former called 1929-53 'the only period when communism triumphed'. Nazarbaev wrote in 1991: 'For three decades [i.e. since the end of the 1950s] we simply have not had a planned economy... The term concealed not simply other methods of economic management but appallingly bad management and irresponsibility'." In addition, in Barrigton Moore's book "Terror and Progress in the USSR", he stated that "Industrial expansion [in the USSR] ... takes place almost exclusively from above. By itself the Soviet economic system does not generate the ruthless energy which made the USSR a first-class industrial power ... The communist elite is in this respect a substitute for the spirit of adventure which created the great industrial and financial empires of the Western world. If the political source of industrial expansion disappears or diminishes there is nothing that could replace it." In addition, Ellman & Kontorovich, in the foreword to their collection of articles on the disintegration of the Soviet economic system, fully agree with this statement by Barrington Moore. As the leading reason for the continuous fall in economic growth in 1958-82 they single out the almost uninterrupted decline in pressure from above. See "The Disintegration of the Soviet Economic System."

    The USSR after 1958 had a more degenerate form of a planned economy which differed in many aspects to the classical command economy set up under Stalin. Thus if we want to show how the USSR's command economy was supposedly inefficient compared to capitalist countries, we would have to stop at 1958 as this was when the economic reforms in the post Stalin era started affecting growth rates.

    In addition, I would like to comment on your data source(the Maddison statistics). It should be kept in mind that "The applied Geary-Khamis method may suffer from Gerschenkron effect, i.e. may produced biased estimates for those countries whose expenditure and price structure differ substantially from the international average, which tends to be dominated by high-income countries, since the weighting scheme reflects country shares in total expenditure." This means that Maddison's estimates of Soviet growth actually understate Soviet growth. I believe that Grigorii Khanin's statistics on Soviet growth are better to use for the period 1941-89. However, his estimates for national income growth in 1928-41 doesn't seem to be correct because his indices of growth for each sector(agriculture, industry, construction, trade) were higher than Western estimates, but for some unknown reason his national income growth rate for this period is way below Western estimates. For the 1928-40 estimates, I believe that Hunter and Szyrmer's estimates for national income and capital stock growth are better. See "Faulty Foundations: Soviet Economic Policies, 1928-1940." While Maddison uses late year weights to determine the growth of USSR in 1928-40, Hunter and Szyrmer use 1928 (base year) prices. Richard Moorsten showed in his paper in 1961 in "The Quarterly Journal of Economics" that as a matter of technical theory, base year(early year) weights are the proper weights to use when deriving the growth estimates for a later year of output. For this reason, I think Hunter and Syrmer's estimates are better to use than other Western estimates based off of late year weights. Leaving this aside, my main point is that Maddison's statistics should be taken as a grain of salt.

    One other post I want to look at is this post(particularly the end of the post): You conclude that "TFP growth was lower than in the West, and decreasing. Finally, the growth model pursued by the Soviets, accumulating capital to generate more capital, proved to be a recipe for a quick takeoff, but also for stagnation and decline. To be sure, it didn’t by itself cause the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it did contribute to the factors that led to it." You also quote the study from Easterly and Fischer to prove your point. However, I don't think this conclusion is accurate because Easterly and Fischer mostly use Western data to prove their point. The Western data were biased by inconsistent use data They substantially downward revised output levels and output growth, but used the official data on investment and capital accumulation! It is believed by many that Soviet figures over-estimated the extent of real growth in capital expenditure by underestimating the rate of inflation in the prices of capital goods. See “Inflation in the Soviet Investment and Capital Stock” by Vladimir Kontorovich for more information. Also, no adjustment for declining working hours were made as well. Western accounts overestimated capital deepening and thus underestimated productivity growth in the Eastern Bloc. For the period 1928-40, I believe that Hunter and Syrmer's growth estimates of net capital stock and output should be used as the Western data(from Moorsten and Powell) exceedingly overstate the growth of the fixed capital stock for reasons that are discussed in Hunter and Syzrmer's book "Faulty Foundations: Soviet Economic Policies, 1928-1940." They come to around the same capital stock growth estimates as Grigorii Khanin who properly accounted for the hidden inflation in Soviet capital stock figures(which most Western estimates used). Hunter and Szyrmer's output growth between 1928-40 grows at 6.6% annually and the capital stock grows only 5.2% annually between 1928-41. If we leave out the third five year plan, Soviet output grew 8.3% annually between 1928-37 and capital stock growth was only 5.9% annually. According to Eastern and Fischer, extensive growth is where the capital output ratios are rising. From the estimates above, we can see that capital output ratios were declining in 1928-40. In the 1940s, using Khanin's statistics, the USSR mainly had extensive growth so I will concede here. However in the period 1950-60, Soviet national income according to Khanin's revised estimates grew 8.9%, but capital stock only grew about 5.4% annually. Here, we can see again that capital output ratios were falling again. From 1960-89, after the reforms after Stalin, Soviet growth was primarily extensive and based off of growth of inputs as shown by the Khanin data. You are correct that the Soviets used an extensive growth strategy after the Stalin era, however during the Stalin era, growth was more intensive. I am not able to test your claim that Soviet TFP growth was lower than the West(before 1960) because I do not have the data on employment(for now).

  • Artir Artir 2018-05-12T14:41:03Z

    Thanks for your comment.

    I'll be replying in length soon. (Soon meaning in hopefully less than 2-3 weeks)

  • Rational Feed – deluks917 2018-05-04T15:45:10Z

    […] Links 16: Bodily Redistribution by Artir – Links: Phycology, Economics, Energy, CS and AI, Economics. Artir also comments about sex redistribution, the incel drama and what is socially acceptable to write. […]

  • Artir Artir 2018-06-01T20:15:14Z

    I'm back!

    I'll reply by points as there are many things together in that comment:

    a) The USSR lost the Stalinist central planning system along the way, but my analysis, especially in that post is not of central planning, but of the USSR. I do mention central planning in a sentence, but for that specific claim "Does central planning work", I have another full post where I look at growth during Stalin's time, the period Khanin lauds. [1] And still, I'm not that impressed. b) On Maddison and the Gerschenkron effect. Yes, indeed the time series in Maddison '13 is biased, this has been acknowledged in the last revision of the data [2]. The new data should now be free from that. I tweeted it here [3]. While levels have changed notoriously, the growth rates remain unaffected. c) On Khanin's alternative data. I used Maddison and other sources simply because those are the ones most commonly discussed in the literature. As of today, Khanin's figures are not generally accepted, as they are difficult to validate [4]. d) On Easterly-Fischer and their data, the Moorsteen-Powell data does have issues with prices, but the quantities are thought to be reliable. See [5] Figure 2 for a proxy (ratio of investment to GDP). The authors try to use non-official prices to correct for this. Alternatively, you can look at Table 10.1 in Allen's book [6] , and see that capital growth was consistently about output growth, there you can see a discussion of many sources for time series data, including the ones you mention. This data comes from Gur Ofer, and in his report he acknowledges the biases in M-P's data. Also when Khanin says that M-Ps series is biased, the standard response to his 1993 article is that not all price increases need be hidden inflation: part of it can represent true technological progress!

    [1] > [2] > [3] > [4] > [5] > [6]

  • John John 2018-05-14T00:23:44Z

    I agree with you that sex redistribution and redistribution of organs is problematic for a certain class of egalitarian, viz. luck egalitarians. I think Rawls may potentially be read as arguing for redistribution on other grounds, like the notion that society is a cooperative venture which should work to assist all members. Still, the position has problems.

    I was wondering what your views on redistribution in general are. Are you completely against redistribution? How do you think inherited characteristics ought to be accounted for? For example, intelligence is largely heritable, is fixed, and accounts for much of one's life outcomes. What do you think can or should be done to assist these people, assuming something can be done? And how does technology affect this calculus? Larger an larger numbers of people will be replaced by technology in coming years. What happens to these people?

  • Artir Artir 2018-06-01T19:20:09Z

    The oneliner would be that I am against, but this is the starting point. Like Huemer here I think redistribution is a right violation, and so prima facie it needs justification. I don't accept many popular justifications, though I accept many of their premises, most notoriously I accept the idea that no one deserves anything, but then I don't understand why people draw redistributive conclusions from there.

    In practice, which may be the interesting bit, I favour a scheme that would give anyone who can't reasonably sustein themself an income to cover all the basics (food, housing, healthcare, education, internet, etc). This is a guaranteed minimum income, not a basic income, as it is conditional. For example, I wouldn't receive this guaranteed income, as I already have one of my own. But for someone who can work and does not, then that person wouldn't get this benefit (if wage>threshold)