What I’ve been reading (and watching)

1. Josh Hendrickson reported some interesting findings on deterrence and crime:

For a given level of crime, an increase in the number of policeman is likely to lead to more arrests. However, more arrests for a given amount of crime implies a greater probability that a criminal is caught. All else equal, a higher probability of being caught increases the expected cost of criminal activity and therefore decreases criminal activity. This means there are fewer potential crimes for which people could be arrested. Whether more police leads to more arrests depends on how the change in the supply of police affects detection and deterrence. It is possible that arrests go up. It is possible arrests go down. . . .

In an attempt to disentangle these effects, McCormick and Tollison turned to college basketball. In 1978, the ACC basketball tournament added a third referee to the court. Prior to that, there were only two referees on the court at one time. The arrest rate can be measured as fouls per game. What they found is that this 50 percent increase in the number of referees (police) reduced the arrest rate (fouls per game) by 34 percent. More importantly, they also provided evidence for why this reduction in the arrest rate occurred. They found that having more referees increased the competency of the team of referees (fewer false arrests) and that it led to cleaner play (fewer incidents of crime).

This relates to a recent post where I argued that a tough on crime approach would actually lead to fewer people in prison.

2. There’s only one verified case of a person living to be 120. Jeanne Calment lived to be 122.45. Now it seems she assumed her mother’s name, and lived to to be just 99.

Abstract: Madame Calment’s extraordinary longevity claim has significantly influenced current estimates of human lifespan. However, recent evidence raises doubts about the authenticity of her record. We compare two competing hypotheses: the base scenario, which assumes that Jeanne’s daughter Yvonne died in 1934, and the switch scenario, which proposes that Yvonne assumed her mother’s identity in 1933. Our analysis suggests that the available evidence supports the switch scenario and contradicts the previously accepted base scenario. This study emphasizes the need to re-evaluate the evidence and highlights the importance of DNA testing (subject to approval by the French authorities). The case of Jeanne Calment was considered the gold standard for age validation. Our research shows that documentation is not always sufficient to verify cases of exceptional longevity. This has important implications for our understanding of the upper limits of human lifespan and demographic patterns in extreme ages.

3. Peter Hessler might be the West’s most astute observer of China. He was recently interviewed, and had this to say:

Sixth Tone: In previous decades, China seemed to outsiders a strange, mysterious land filled with opportunities. Now China’s relationship with the world has changed. It is deeply integrated with the global economy even as opportunities for cooperation have given way to the rhetoric of competition. Does that change how we should write about China for a global audience?

Peter Hessler: A writer has to be more aware of the risks of getting used for something negative. I feel badly that young journalists have to deal with this kind of politically charged situation. When I started writing, there were problems between the U.S. and China, but it wasn’t anything like it is now. Today, if you write something reasonable about China, you will be attacked by extremists on both sides.

4. Louis CK does a great job of explaining why Kubrick is in a class by himself. (16 minutes) Also check out Tarantino on DePalma.

5. The Economist has a long piece explaining how the US has come to dominate the global economy. They end with a warning:

The government has started to throw billions of dollars at bringing chipmakers to America—in effect trying to hoover up lower-value parts of the industry in the name of supply-chain security. And it is trying to do much the same for electric vehicles, wind turbines, hydrogen production and more, potentially spending $2trn, or nearly 10% of gdp, to reshape the economy. These are aggressive interventions that run counter to America’s post-1980s stance; they may end up costing it productivity as well as money.

The overarching irony is that most of these potentially self-harming policies have their roots in a declinist view that, economically at least, simply does not reflect the facts. The diagnoses are that China is getting ahead, or that immigrants are a menace, that large corporations are bastions of woke power and free trade a form of treachery. Their folly is all the more striking because it betrays a lack of appreciation for the bigger economic picture, and just how good America has it.

6. And now it’s the conservative school boards that are banning Dr. Suess. The extreme left and the extreme right have one thing in common—they both hate freedom.

7. Bloomberg provides further evidence that the world is determined to repeat the mistakes of the first half of the 20th century:

The warning from the World Trade Organization in Geneva early this week was unambiguous: A global economy split into rival trading factions would reduce real incomes 5% — maybe double that amount in poor countries.

The next day, the European Union launched what some of the 27-nation bloc’s most well-known industries — ranging from Airbus SE to cosmetic producers and wine makers — worry could land them on the punishing end of a trade war with China.

8. The wisdom of Janan Ganesh:

Last year, Joe Biden framed the modern world as a “battle between democracies and autocracies”. It is a good thing that he has desisted. First, lots of countries are hard to place on the axis. (Where is Thailand at any given time?) Second, the west hasn’t the clout to confront all autocracies. What it can do is counter aggressors, such as Russia. In other words, what a state does, not what it is, must be the test.

Still, this is an odd point to make in a column that sort of defends Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the world’s greatest aggressors.

9. On a lighter note, Trump says that Biden is “cognitively impaired” and will lead us into WWII.

10. These Ben Southwood tweets caught my eye:

At (nearly) age 68, here’s my best guess:

1. Age 0 to 40: About 90% of subjective experience.

2. Age 40 to 65: About 8% of subjective experience.

3. Age 65 to 90: About 2% of subjective experience.

“I can’t wait until I retire so that I can finally . . . “

Nah. It’s too late.

The assassination of JFK was a terrible tragedy. But not for Kennedy, for America. His 90% >>>>>>> my 100%.



6 Responses to “What I’ve been reading (and watching)”

  1. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    18. September 2023 at 00:46


    writing this from Indonesia today.

    The whole idiotic China bashing by the West is really just based on the deathly fear to lose the guaranteed high point in international relations, taken for granted since, well, uh, colonialism started in the 1500’s. All the while there’s countries no one thinks of in the West – India for sure but say, Indonesia as well – that are incredibly dynamic and go completely unnoticed, that rise and will keep on rising. Yes, China is technologically most advanced I reckon. But I for once did not expect that in Jakarta I’d see the largest LED billboards I have seen in my life, 10 storeys high and ranking around entire blocks of 30 storey tall appartment towers, larger than anything I’ve seen in Japan a few months ago. Malls as nice or nicer than in Singapore too. Yea, pollution, inequality blah blah but get this: All this in a country that politically, is composed of 100s of ethnicities, dozens of major languages spoken, and yet they managed, post-colonialism, to peacefully agree on a single language, Bahasa Indonesia, then (1945) spoken by perhaps 5% of its people, and retain a single nation w/o falling apart in civil war. And compare this now with, say, an EU where every backwater thinks itself special, hysterically clinging to its “sovereignty”, the non existence of a lingua franca too. While in the US it isn’t just states and counties, it’s every individual that thinks they’re special.

    My point it, many political models for countries around, many function in wondrous ways, yet the West is completely blind to anything that didn’t strictly follow the Western model, because you know, heavens forbid the US or EU ever learn anything from (gasp!) brown people. The US specifically seemingly has nothing else on their mind these days than disturbing other people’s aspirations for prosperity. Because that is really what it is. Envy, contempt, and fear to lost that “exceptional” country status. In that envious fixation and blindness to anything else they now fixate on China, but oh boy, I guess they will be getting a few surprises from elsewhere too.

  2. Gravatar of John John
    18. September 2023 at 04:24

    RE “Joe Biden framed the modern world as a “battle between democracies and autocracies”

    Any alleged expert or layperson who talks about “democracies” AS IF a real democracy ACTUALLY EXISTS ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD (or has existed at any time in ‘human civilization’) is evidently a fool who’s repeating mindlessly and blindly the propaganda fed to them since they were a kid and/or is a member of the corrupt establishment minions whose job is to disseminate this total lie because any “democracy” of ‘human civilization’ has always been a covert structure of the rule of a few over the many operating behind the pretense name and facade of a “democracy”: http://www.CovidTruthBeKnown.com (or https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html)

    “There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. […]. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies […]. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable laws of business. The world is a business […].” — from the 1976 movie “Network”

    “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” — Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice

    Does anyone still not see how the deadly game on the foolish public is played … or still does not WANT to see it?

    In terms of “experts” or “awake” folks who sell you the fake program of democracies…

    “All experts serve the state and the media and only in that way do they achieve their status. Every expert follows his master, for all former possibilities for independence have been gradually reduced to nil by present society’s mode of organization. The most useful expert, of course, is the one who can lie. With their different motives, those who need experts are falsifiers and fools. Whenever individuals lose the capacity to see things for themselves, the expert is there to offer an absolute reassurance.” —Guy Debord

    Isn’t it about time for anyone to wake up to the ULTIMATE DEPTH of the human rabbit hole — rather than remain blissfully willfully ignorant in a narcissistic fantasy land and play victim like a little child?

    “We’ll know our Disinformation Program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” —William Casey, a former CIA director=a leading psychopathic criminal of the genocidal US regime

    “Separate what you know from what you THINK you know.” — Unknown

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. September 2023 at 07:35

    mbka, Yes, Indonesia might be the most underrated country. And I agree that westerners don’t take non-Western idea seriously. I recall reading how the US is the only developed country with a death penalty, as if East Asia did not exist.

  4. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    18. September 2023 at 16:05

    Does time slow down when you’re older if you’re doing/experiencing something new?

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. September 2023 at 07:46

    Garrett, Yes, to some degree. But there are far fewer new things. I can go to a new country in Europe, one I’ve never visited before. But it’s still vastly more familiar than my first trip to Europe.

  6. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    27. September 2023 at 12:43

    Great stuff as always.

    Not sure what I think of the idea of “subjective experience,” but you could talk me into this:

    1. Age 0 to 40: About 2% of kvetching.

    2. Age 40 to 65: About 8% of kvetching.

    3. Age 65 to 90: About 90% of kvetching.

    To me the weirdest thing about getting old is realizing that young people look at you as an old person, when to myself I’m just as goofy and immature as I was when I was young – and in pretty much the same ways. I had always assumed people changed as they got older, but extrapolating wildly from my view of myself, I no longer believe that.

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