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Why did human civilization arise now?

(Where by now, I mean ten thousand years ago).

New climatologic research (well, new in the past couple decades) suggests that civilization arose in a unique climate: Read more »

The War on Garage Science

...among other things. Read more »

Yeah, it sucks

Many of the commenters to my post on immigration seem to have made the following leap:

"Patri says that X has significant bad consequences. Therefore Patri is against X, and believes it is right to stop X"

First of all, this is fallacious. The consequent does not at all imply the antecedent.

Second, the arguments about how it is wrong to coerce ignored the fact that I am weighing *coercion against coercion*. The coins on each side of the balance are in the same denomination, thus it is a fair comparison. It is all well and good to say that we shouldn't coerce people because of their political beliefs - but what about when those political beliefs lead to us being coerced?

Here is the obvious thought experiment: Suppose that I live on an island controlled by powerful robots. The robots are whimsical, and have mandated a democratic system where they enforce whatever rules the humans vote on. There are currently 5 of us on the island, 3 of whom are libertarians, and 2 of whom are communists. A communist couple wants to move in, and the matter is put to a vote. Do you vote to stop them?

If you truly believe that my point is absurd, and that future political consequences like increased democratic coercion are irrelevant, then you will be adamant about letting the communists move in to destroy your freedom. Is that how you actually feel? Read more »

How to increase laptop sales

1) Include a motion sensor in your product.

2) Have a third-party release a program which makes light-saber noises in reaction to the motion sensor.

3) People swing their laptops around like lunatics. Some break. You sell them replacements.


There is no easy way out on immigration

In a post on Cafe Hayek about immigration yesterday, Russell Roberts takes the easy way out:

But why should I care if America is more Hispanic in the coming years? Or more Christian? Or more Islamic? The answer, tragically, is that I should care if our political system allows a group to channel money or power to its own group at the expense of others.

The answer to this challenge is not to close our borders. The answer is to strengthen the Constitution and reduce the power of government.

An Interview Of Abundance

Health care is a confusing subject. Do Americans devote 16% of the US GDP to this sector because of the vast array of new treatment options, because of our wealth, because our system is too private, or because it is too public? Bombarded by rhetoric from all sides about this important question, we think it's time to stop listening to industry flacks and policy wonks and see what an economist has to say.

Here is Arnold Kling from EconLog on his new book: Crisis Of Abundance: Rethinking How We Pay For Health Care.

Some choice quotes:

Kling on Kling:

"My third motive [when blogging] is to let off steam."

"I have very bourgeois tastes. Our vacations are not exotic. Other people have a comparative advantage in enjoying Paris or Bangkok."

Kling on politics:

"We'll just take power and then we can do whatever we want." (things that libertarians don't get to say)

"Basically, redistributionism is playing God using government as an instrument. Very scary, once you understand what it's really about."

"I think that if more people knew economics, we would have better public policy. The government is not going to be any wiser than the people. If the people think that high gas prices are caused by a sudden outbreak of greed among oil company executives, then our public policy is going to wind up reflecting that, regardless of whether the elites know better."

Kling on health care:

"There is very little chance that my house will burn down. But if it happens, and I'm not insured, it's a financial disaster. So I insure. For most people in most years, fire insurance pays no claims. With health "insurance," most people in most years are paid claims. I call it insulation, because it acts as a layer of insulation between the consumer and medical bills."

"The doctor is the gatekeeper to the hospital and to the pharmacy. My guess is that you'll have to pry away their keys to those gates from their cold, dead fingers."

The full interview is below the cut. Read more »

Patri\'s 3 Rules For Cooking Yummy Food

Most of you probably know why voting is a poor use of time. The chance that your vote will make a difference, coupled with the indirect effect political differences have on your life, combine to make your return on investment much lower than if you worked on something much smaller that has a direct impact on your well-being. Yet despite this argument, we Catallarchists spend a lot of time talking about things that you have no power to change and which don't directly affect you.

Let's buck that trend, and talk a little about how to cook simple, delicious meals. After all, if Tyler Cowen can talk about food all the time, no econ blog should be ashamed to follow.

Patri's Three Steps To Cooking Yummy Food

1. Start with fresh, yummy ingredients.

If I had to pick one key, this would be it. Cooking is not about turning lead into gold, and the better stuff you start out with, the better you'll generally end up with. Sure, good ingredients can be ruined, and a highly-spiced long-simmering stew can cover up for bad meat and vegetables. But my philosophy of cooking is like my philosophy of government, of managing, and of education: If you start with something good, all you need to do is provide a little coordination and then you can get the hell out of the way.

2. Use a standard, simple format.

There is a reason my wife & I usually have eggs for breakfast - because eggs kick ass! People have tried a lot of combinations over the years, and some of them have stuck around. Find some simple ones you like, and then work within that framework. Classic formats include "Pasta + Sauce", "Salad", "Sandwich", "Meat w/ Root Vegetables on the side", "Mac & Cheese". Just like "Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Finds Girl Again", and "Drummer, lead guitarist/backup vocalist, lead vocalist/backup guitarist", cooking formats provide just the right amount of guidance, while allowing plenty of flexibility.

3. Add some spice.

This is third for a reason. If you combine yummy ingredients in a standard format you like, it will probably taste pretty good. But (especially after a few repetitions), you may notice a vague feeling of something missing. That something is spice, which provides variety and subtlety for your palate. Get a big spice rack and sniff everything in it. Randomly pick something promising each time you cook, until you get a feel for them. Until you learn otherwise, always include some salt - it's a +EV gamble. Read more »

Vacation spot, not legalization experiment

Glen Whitman has convinced me that, being pro-legalization, I should disclaim Mexico's drug legalization effort. Read more »

Realistic Libertarian is not an oxymoron

As Bruce Bartlett demonstrates in Cato Unbound: Read more »

Two poor incentive systems

It just occured to me that two of the government-enforced crappy systems that I've noticed lately are due to exactly the same incentive problem. Read more »

Watch This Space

Given the success of our interview with Tim Harford about his book The Undercover Economist, we're going to continue the tradition by interviewing another economist-cum-blogger-cum author. Read more »

Valuating Real Estate

I'm selling my 1/3 house share to the other owners, and we need to establish a Fair Market Value. We hired his appraiser, but I found the results a little suspect, and I have a long, detailed post analyzing the subject on my Livejournal. If you're interested in the question, check it out.

V for Western Values

V for Vendetta small trailerAfter months of being tied down to the baby and unable to go out and have fun, my wife and I had our nanny take an evening shift so we could go see a movie. What with the rarity of the event, we naturally picked one that we knew would be a family pleaser. Read more »

Amalgamating Hobbes and Locke

In which I mock libertarians and paint a sadly pragmatic view of the world
Read more »

Patri\'s First Law Of Statistics

Correlation implies causation when convenient; otherwise, there are confounding factors.