OMNILIBRIUM
  Rational Discussion of Controversial Topics
Economics Education Ethics Foreign Policy Government History Politics Religion Science

Silent Cal

Profile | Comments | Articles | Debates


What's more important Laffer Curve or Income Inequality?
The practical choice is to choose by popular vote of citizens. Or have a court rule that all citizens have to be weighted equally, also fairly likely. Either way will probably generate a pretty good outcome and not start a ... read more

What's more important Laffer Curve or Income Inequality?
No one has yet given the most basic answer: maximize utility. There are two effects at work here that are pretty much undisputed in mainstream economics: 1) Redistribution distorts economic incentives, lowering total production. This produces ... read more

Should efforts by made to stump out Halloween?
Nitpick here, the Passover seder also explicitly states that the plagues are not being celebrated. On the contrary, a drop of wine is spilled for each plague as a symbol of reducing the Passover celebration in recognition of the suffering that was ... read more

The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?
Interesting thought, but it undermines their point a bit that of the 16 scenarios they cite, three of the four that avoided war are the three most recent examples. Of course, one of those is the US and the Soviet Union, which carries its own ... read more

Should Gay Marriage Be Treated Like Heterosexual Marriage?
Yes, for one thing it affects the social value of marriage much more then the others.
This is a valid reason for treating it differently, if true. Maybe I should amend our ideal to "that your demographic traits should not be held against you by ... read more

Should Gay Marriage Be Treated Like Heterosexual Marriage?
On the object level, I don't know the relative social value of same- and opposite-sex marriages. The only cause of disparity I might expect would be through differing propensity to raise children; but if so, this could be more directly addressed ... read more

Should people be allowed to ear-mark their taxes to specific policy areas for a price?
I worry about the complexity of, in addition to having to set a budget, also having to set earmarking rates for each area. I also am concerned about counterfactual trust; even if the legislature tried to be counterfactually trustworthy, I think it ... read more

Are there any arguments for wealth inequality being desirable?
It could be that the human brain is tuned for a certain level of inequality, and if we can't express our impulses to acquire and protect status, we'd suffer for it. Of course, in the absense of monetary inequality, you can bet humans would ... read more

Should companies use implicit association tests to screen potential hires?
You're probably right that, if unconscious bias doesn't actually affect team performance, that result would have trouble making it to publication. Maybe the team would need an unmeasured scapegoat explanation handy so that if their results ... read more

Should companies use implicit association tests to screen potential hires?
Implicit associations aren't really 'true' or 'false' so much as 'useful' or 'harmful'. Associating particular groups with 'bad' has questionable utility and clear harm. I'd also add that a particular workplace ... read more

Should companies use implicit association tests to screen potential hires?
I'm still not understanding what happened on the IATs you took. Are you saying that the box you checked beforehand influenced the results? Or just that it's implausible that it found you were biased against your own ethnicity?
If
... read more

Should companies use implicit association tests to screen potential hires?
Wait, by 1), do you mean that you're an X, and when you take the test as an X it says you're biased against Ys, but when you check the Y box the results say you're biased against Xs? 2, 3) Of course everyone has biases, and it's ... read more

Should atheists support teaching both evolution and creationism in schools?
It doesn't seem wise to introduce students to the evaluation of scientific theories using something ideologically charged. ... read more

Why is there a need for a head of state?
True, but this doesn't really answer the question so much as broaden it: why is a single executive better than, say, a small odd-numbered council? Re: small odd-numbered councils, it's worth noting that Google has a traditional CEO, but ... read more

Why is there a need for a head of state?
Very ... read more

Why is there a need for a head of state?
I mean in terms of deceiving co-decision-makers. Deceiving entities outside the government is at least sometimes desirable. Though I suppose it might be an advantage of larger decision-making bodies for democracies that they're less able to ... read more

Why is there a need for a head of state?
Interestingly, it's not only governments that show this tendency. Corporations, non-profits, and even recreational clubs appoint single leaders. This also tends to happen fractally, with leaders assigned for subgroups (teams) and subtasks ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
Regarding the loan officer example: Surely having at least someone doing the job is a big win? As compared to either no loans being available, or everyone who asks getting a loan, or loans being distributed by lottery (these last two cases would ... read more

The cultural explanation of the difficulty of development
Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a sufficient condition. The main problems with a colonial nation I can see are that the rulers might not have the right motivations, and that there might be ongoing unrest against foreign rule. But if ... read more

Does Decadence Cause Decay?
This question suffers from a lack of definition, but thinking it over myself, "decadence" seems best defined as "deviation from traditional farmer values". In which case we'd expect to see decadence cause downfalls throughout the farmer era, ... read more

Should the "Best and Brightest" Go Into Finance?
I don't find the correlations particularly persuasive in one direction or another--obviously there's a ton of ways the state of the economy could affect the growth of finance, and they also only looked at six time periods spanning three ... read more

The cultural explanation of the difficulty of development
The doctors dividing their incomes to support large families don't harm the country. The government officials going corrupt to support large families do. Put another way, the problem isn't that people put their families' needs above ... read more

The cultural explanation of the difficulty of development
I'm not an expert on Singapore, so let me use that ignorance as an opportunity for prediction: By the current hypothesis, I predict that closer inspection of Singapore will reveal a more individualist (or at least nuclear-family-centric) ... read more

The cultural explanation of the difficulty of development
My hypothesis is that there's mutual causation--in the West, development was slow and culture could adapt to the changing conditions. Today we're shortcutting the technological and governmental development of developing nations, and the ... read more

Is private gun ownership harmful? How harmful?
There's an argument that having "murder at your fingertips" can make a law-abiding citizen more likely to become a killer in a fit of ... read more

Seeking Precedent As a Form of Changing the Law
Fair point, we're probably well past the point of diminishing returns on legislative detail; reactive approaches suit present conditions better. There's also the option of empowering the executive branch to work out the details, which has ... read more

Seeking Precedent As a Form of Changing the Law
For new legislation, being thorough and specific is the best way to restore the primacy of legislation. A fast-track system to legislatively resolve ambiguities that go to the courts would also be a big win. Unfortunately, ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
I seem to have led our discussion into some clearly fallacious logical absolute terms. If a person voluntarily chooses to engage in an activity, I take that as evidence they derive some value from it, because why else would they do it? This ... read more

Is international law a meaningful concept?
How is it different from saying that the best way of governing a country is to have small subset of its population - the "enlightened ones" dictate the rules? It's not philosophically different. It's (debatably) different pragmatically, ... read more

Preventive Military Strikes
That's what I mean. Usually being sure about the intentions is the hard part, and the cases where being sure about the intentions is easy are generally the cases where a preemptive strike is ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
Mathematically equivalent cash discounts are allowed, which effectively makes the restriction on credit card surcharges an agreement about presentation--not a ridiculous thing to have in the contract. You might be right about M&A--specifically, ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
My standard is to assume any activity lots of people voluntarily choose to engage in is valuable to those people, unless we have a compelling reason to assume otherwise. Failing to understand where the value comes from is not a compelling reason. ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
But are those smart people in finance making 80% of their potential contribution? 0%? ... read more

Is international law a meaningful concept?
The subtlety is that in the case of a League of Democracies type body, the rules they enforce would be the ones they consider moral. So they would have a basis for saying those who violate their dicta were immoral, but the dicta would be in place ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
You're holding up an impossible standard. You could just as easily say that people sometimes choose to eat apples but that doesn't mean they derive any real value from it. I do believe that retail day-trading is essentially a slot machine, ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
There's definitely some competition on credit card rates, since AmEx is often not accepted. Is passing on the fee actually prohibited, or does it just annoy customers? I'll accept debt-peddling isn't great. The M&A debate really ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
Actively traded mutual funds appear to be a swindle. They also represent a relatively small subset of the financial sector. I guess you're saying they're illustrative of the rest of the sector? My prior is still that a voluntary transaction ... read more

Is international law a meaningful concept?
It can be, with limitations. One way is to have an opt-in agreement with all members agreeing to punish anyone who violates the agreement. Obviously this can only cover things lots of nations agree on, or else only cover smaller subsets of ... read more

Preventive Military Strikes
Can they ever be justified? Of course. If a nation is building up armies to launch an attack, and you know for sure that that's what they're doing, and their propensity to launch the attack is not affected by your propensity to ... read more

Are finanicial sector profits primarily reflective of real value created?
To answer the question, we first need to look at where finance firms make their money. I'm actually going to answer the wrong question and just look at Goldman Sachs, since detailed data is easier to come by for a company than a sector. Since ... read more

Should Western governments encourage or pressure third world countries to adopt democracy?
Epistemic status: Just a thought We have no idea what systems of government work for improving stability, wealth and human rights. There are some systems that we're pretty sure don't work (in certain conditions). We should ... read more

Should there be a government mandated minimum wage?
I think it's a mix of group selfishness and Copenhagen ethics. To the extent it's the latter I oppose that ... read more

Non-partisan reform ideas
c.f. Overcoming Bias on policy ... read more

Should there be a government mandated minimum wage?
The minimum wage is a form of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics. If you employ a poor person, you are responsible for their poverty; if you had used a robot instead, or just not expanded your business, you'd have clean hands. If we as a ... read more