Assault of Thoughts - 10/17/2012

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK

- Posner makes the important point that most (all?) human outcomes are the result of luck - or perhaps a less combustible term is circumstance. A lot of people confuse their circumstances for their personal accomplishments or value. He makes the equally important point that this is not an excuse for complete redistribution. The fact that outcomes are largely a result of circumstance does not overturn the reality of incentives. But these insights should temper our moralizing about things like taxation.

- Alpha Centauri has an Earth-sized planet! The problem is that it is far too hot. I am not deterred. I have every confidence that our AC technology will progress at least as fast as our interstellar travel technology. Colonists just won't be able to take a stroll outside.

- I tentatively recommend this video by Steve Horwitz on gender discrimination. It has all the right points, but he still concludes that wage differentials between men and women "are not the result of discrimination", which is astounding to me. The really critical point comes in at 3:10 where Steve acknowledges that discrimination or any kind of unjust inequality may come in at the level of human captial or occupational choices, and norms about family life. Which is exactly right: when you control for those things the wage disparity largley disappears (estimates of the extent to which it disappears vary, of course), and a lot of the observed wage disparities come in through other channels. Why, after pointing that out at 3:10, you would then say that wage differentials is not the result of discrimination is beyond me. So my tentativeness is really not on the content of the video at all. It's that the presentation is made in a way that I think a lot of people are going to walk away from it thinking that gender discrimination or disparities are not a problem worth worrying about.