Author Archives: admin

Small groups produce abstract thoughts – the sixth SSC Atlanta meetup notes

It was a small group this time – just three of us, but good conversation. Out main accomplishment was to conclusively determine that the use of the word socialism as too vague – old school socialism of the 1920s Soviet sort will be referred to as “planned economy” or “central planning”, whereas the new “socialism” as espoused by millennial and their dreadful habits of using the same word to mean different but related things will be replaced with “Bismarkian social insurance” or some better term we come up with later.

Notable topics in their absence

  1. Guns
  2. Psychedelic medicines
  3. The Soviet Union
  4. The deeper meaning of infrastructure costs

And here is a better explanation of Tyler Cowen’s thought on infrastrcture costs – from his book “The Great Stagnation

ow let’s think about government in this framework. Let’s say government spends $1 million fixing a road: How much does that contribute to measured GDP? $1 million. No consumer “buys” the road, but the expenditure counts nonetheless toward the output of goods and services. In other words, in measured GDP, we are valuing the expenditure at cost. Sometimes governments sell their outputs in the form of goods and services (think of user fees for national parks, or toll roads), but mostly that’s not the case, and fees account for only a small part of what our government does. We typically resort to valuing government outputs at cost, and indeed it’s not clear how else we could do it.   Sometimes government outputs are worth a lot more than what we spend on them, and sometimes they are worth a lot less. The proper role of government in society is beyond the scope of this discussion. But still it is a general principle that the most fundamental functions of government are worth more than the extra, addon, or optional things that governments do. A dollar spent on very basic police and courts and army protection is worth more than a dollar spent on refurnishing a warehouse in Minneapolis under the guise of urban renewal. A dollar spent on welfare for the poorest is more valuable than a dollar spent extending the program to better-off but still poor cases. And so on. Yet when it comes to national income accounting, and measuring GDP, we are valuing every one of these different expenditures at $1.


Have you ever wondered why so many developing economies—the successful ones, I mean—rise to prosperity through exports and tradable goods? There are a few reasons for this, but one is that the external world market provides a real measure of value. If you are exporting successfully, it’s not based on privilege, connections, corruption, or fakery. Someone who has no stake in your country and no concern for your welfare is spending his or her own money to buy your product. Trying to export is putting your economy to the test every day with measurable results. If you can pass this test, it is a sign of better things to come. The successful East Asian economies, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, understand this point well. Again, the market is a pretty clear measure of economic value. The more we move away from market tests, the harder it is to tell how we are doing in productivity.

Natural Aristocrats hire lawyers with their UBI – then get murdered by Bolsheviks – The fifth Atlanta Slate Star Codex meeting notes

The fifth Atlanta SSC meetup was a success – there were two new faces for a total of five. We met at the usual place (Hodge Podge) and discussed:

  1. Industrialization – in a generic sense
  2. Technological unemployment (a lot)
  3. Inequalities in the criminal justice system
  4. Universal Basic Income (a lot)
  5. Gulag death rates – originally quoted as 5% – but that seems to be deceptive – see this link for more (short version – the numbers were juked – they would move the inmates about to die out of the camp when they were near death)
  6. Negative rights
  7. Humanism (I think described as socialism)

Thoughts that occurred to me after the meeting

  1. Is there any evidence that UBI creates something other than the negative social attributes attributed to welfare dependency – I think Native American tribes have something like this with gambling revenue, and Alaskans have something like this with oil – is there any evidence based on that?
  2. The government has a monopoly on the supply of law enforcement and criminal justice. Given how a person feels about that does that make you more or less inclined to give government a monopoly in health care, or anything else? Does that alter one’s opinion on extending government health care, or socialism in general?
  3. Is there a bias to being innocent in the courts? If so, then the point made about publicly funding criminal lawyers weakens.

There were many other topics – there was more ideological diversity at this meetup, but I’m too late in publishing this anyway. We shall begin the next meetup by creating useful definitions of socialism and communism before any other discussion.

John Boyd pegged the problem with technologists perfectly

I was listening to the sometimes great Hanselminutes podcast while working and sadly his “Algorithms of Oppression” interview came on. Put broadly it was about how how algorithmic bias can “shape the world”. It was terrible and it occurred to me that while every good technology podcast interview is good in a different way, every bad technology podcast interview is bad in the same way, namely the interviewee talks about their personal opinions on something, sometimes named as

  1. “their worldview”
  2. “the way the world really works”
  3. “the big picture

I’m reminded of John Boyd’s notion (paraphrased) “You must eventually choose to do something or to be someone, but not both”. To be notable in technology one has chosen to do something and when they talk about themselves (i.e. the way in which they “are someone”) their forced to talk about themselves (or worldview/paradigm/etc) and it comes up very lacking.

Tin Foil Hats are Comfortable – the Fourth Atlanta SSC Meetup

Last Saturday we had the fourth Slate Star Codex Atlanta meetup, with two new members (yay) for a total of five. We rambled on for about three and a half hours. Topics included

  1. Guns
  2. The math of revolutions and violent uprisings (historically more likely than I’d ever actually thought)
  3. Negative effects of smoking cessation (one of my pet theories)
  4. Creating a regional form of government between states and the federal government (the more I think about this the more I like it)
  5. LARPing
  6. Nootropics
  7. Relations between police and the citizenry
  8. And many more

The title line of the meetup came from new member BJ. The next meetup will be in three weeks or so, probably in the same place.

Here are the links

  1. The Great War and TimeGhost
  2. Handwaving Freakoutery