New York’s subway construction is strangled by government bloat

It has become increasingly well appreciated lately that “America can’t build.” More accurately, modern America seems to be incapable of building large infrastructure in anything resembling a timely, cost-effective manner, leaving us handily outdone by obscure North African countries. The prevailing diagnoses much resemble the crumbling decrepitude of human aging: the cost overruns appear to arise from a multitude of disparate inefficiencies rather than from any one key failing. I argue, however, that a new case study on the failures of New York’s Second Avenue Subway extension from the Transit Costs Project well illustrates how government bloat writ large is a unifying lens through which America’s construction inefficiencies can be productively analyzed. This analysis, in turn, helps us concretely imagine what a model of effective-but-small governance would look like.

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An anthropological expedition into a Portland anarchist newsletter

I recently stumbled upon a “blog” called Rose City Counter-Info, which brands itself as an “anarchist counter-info platform in Portland, Oregon.” Specifically, it is a “platform for submissions of any communiques, reports, zines, analyses, announcements, calls to action, art and musings relevant to anarchists and radicals in ‘Portland’ and the greater Portland area.” The “counter-info […]

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Reconciling the signaling and human capital models of education?

Economists have long debated the “signaling theory of education” versus the “human capital” or “value-add” models. In the former case, students benefit from degrees because degrees are a credible signal of underlying traits such as intelligence or conscientiousness; in the latter case, students benefit because because they learn useful skills, go through personal development, etc., experiences which improve their long-run earning potential. Here I lay out some preliminary thoughts on how one might begin to reconcile these two models by looking at the role of compulsory education in the transition from a primitive to a developed economy.

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The tenured professor and the sea of cancellation: Gregory Clark on human intelligence

Gregory Clark is a tenured professor of economic history at UC Davis known for studying intergenerational mobility in England from the 17th through the 21st century. Interestingly, he more or less re-derived the additive inheritance of human talent (principally but not wholly composed of human intelligence) from empirical analysis of how social standing fluctuated throughout the centuries. These findings are well summarized in a recent podcast between him and the physicist Steve Hsu. I will highlight and expand upon some points of considerable interest from this podcast.

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Beware of Gell-Mann amnesia about government quality

Many people are amateur experts in some specific domain of government regulation, such as land use zoning or immigration law, which they know for sure is horribly inefficient and profoundly harmful to the nation. However, they often fail to appropriately generalize these observations to the quality of political governance at large: a form of Gell-Mann amnesia applied to the quality of our rulers.

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What the Accelerationist’s Political Compass says about us

Every now and then, this “political compass” of acceleration vs. deceleration, hyperhuman vs. unhuman pops up. It’s a pretty interesting breakdown so I wanted to jot down a couple thoughts.

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The West could not have created NieR: Automata

The rot of Western culture is well summarized in a single observation: it could not have created NieR: Automata.

Dear readerーwhen was the last time that you were deeply moved, at a primal level, by a work of Western art?

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A response to Tyler Cowen’s “Classical liberalism vs. The New Right”

I am a loyal reader of the economist Tyler Cowen’s blog Marginal Revolution, and so I was pleased to see Tyler lay out his thoughts on classical liberalism vs. the New Right in a recent post. However, I feel that he underrates the descriptive accuracy of the New Right’s criticisms, even though I largely agree with him from a prescriptive perspective.

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