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One Million Views Giveaway

July 28, 2015

1 millionth view

Today marks the 1 millionth view on my blog, which is a huge milestone. As a celebration, I will be giving away some rare Warframe items, since Warframe is the primary reason I’ve gotten so many views. To enter, simply comment below. I will email the winners 1 week after this post, and hand out the prizes through Warframe’s trading system.

There will be 3 prizes:

1st prize: 250 Platinum + 3 items of your choice from the list below

2nd prize: 100 Platinum + 2 items from the list below

3rd Prize: 50 Platinum + 1 item

Arcane Helmets:
Aura Trinity
Aurora Frost
Avalon Excalibur
Cholera Saryn
Chorus Banshee
Coil Mag
Espirit Vauban
Essence Loki
Flux Nova
Gauss Mag
Pulse Volt
Scorpion Ash
Storm Volt
Vanguard Rhino

Prime Sets:
Frost Prime
Mag Prime
Braton Prime
Burston Prime
Latron Prime
Sicarus Prime
Dakra Prime
Reaper Prime

Rare mods (2 per pick):
Accelerated blast
Arrow mutation
Barrel diffusion
Bleeding willow
blind rage
Burdened Magazine
Coiling Viper
Coolant Leak
Critical Deceleration
Crossing Snakes
Decisive Judgement
Dual Rounds
Efficient Transferral
Enemy Sense
Energy Channel
Fired up
Fleeting Expertise
Focus Energy
Frigid Blast
Guardian (not gold, but rare)
Hammer Shot
Heavy Trauma
Hell’s Chamber
Hollow Point
Hollowed Bullets
Hyperion Thrusters
Ice Storm
Iron Phoenix
Jagged Edge
Lethal Torrent
Magnum Force
Malicious Raptor
Master Thief
Metal Auger
Morphic Transformer
Narrow Minded
Natural Talent
Pistol Ammo Mutation
Pistol Pestilence
Power Throw
Quick thinking
Reflex Guard
Rending Strike
Rifle Ammo Mutation
Seeking Force
Seismic Palm
Shotgun Ammo Mutation
Sniper Ammo Mutation
Split chamber
Spoiled Strike
Steady Hands
Stunning Speed
Sundering Strike
System Reroute
Tainted Clip
Tainted Mag
Tainted Shell
Tranquil Cleave
Toxic Barrage
Transient Fortitude
Undying Will
Vicious Spread
Vile Acceleration
Vital Sense
Volcanic Edge

It’s all about that Target

July 24, 2015

It’s fairly common to see someone waxing about macroeconomic policy and describe a desired central bank action without any reference to a policy target. Some examples: “The Fed shouldn’t do any QE”, or “The Fed should raise interest rates” (of course no mention of when and by how much).

Monetary policy, like all human action, is a purposeful activity. You do it so that some goal is achieved. The purpose of macroeconomic policy is to hit one, and only one, target.

Look at the statistics on the variables before making blanket statements. Before saying that monetary policy should be looser/tighter make sure inflation isn’t already at an all time high/low. If deflation is higher than it’s ever been, and expected inflation is lower than it’s been since the Great Depression, maybe it’s not a good time to demand even more contractionary policy.

In any event, beware of any pundit who expresses a policy preference without a target. Sometimes monetary policy is wrong and it needs to change, but we get nowhere if we just advocate a policy without specifying what that policy should actually achieve.

Assorted Links

July 23, 2015

1. Ordoliberalism

2. Reintroducing ex-prisoners to society

3. A few good existential comics:

I have been reading all of them lately.

4. The drug war is driving domestic spying.

5. Interfluidity on price stickiness

Algorithms, Prices, and Economic Calculation

July 14, 2015

This post is in response to this article by Adam Gurri, which is a response to this article by Adam Ozimek.

Ozimek’s article is a somewhat disjointed list of firms that use algorithms to price things, and some observations on other examples of when markets work pretty well. It’s pretty short, so perhaps he just didn’t have enough space to fully develop the argument, but I’m not sure what he was going for.

The idea that you could run Uber without markets is so distant from reality that neither of the Adams even consider it. The non-market Uber would not just algorithmically compute prices, it would try to actually allocate rides to specific people at specific times, potentially years in advance. Central planning is not about coming up with a single price, given an environment where all other prices are determined by competitive markets. That’s easy. It’s about coming up with all prices, quantities, and allocations simultaneously. That’s the vision Hayek and Mises were refuting, not the idea that companies should set prices according to supply and demand via algorithm.

A Firm is not the market. Algorithms are a pricing strategy. Yes, it’s better that Uber’s price goes up when it rains, but algorithms can’t replace markets, because they require the context of a market to work. For example, Uber’s algorithm would have spit out higher price if not for Lyft. The reason Uber gains so much benefit from algorithmically pricing its product is precisely because their main competitors, taxis, don’t vary their prices at all. They are the margin, and as such, they must react more than if everyone varied their prices a bit less.

Gurri approvingly quotes Harry Collins: “[Algorithmic pricing] only works because the surrounding social organism makes up and ‘repairs’ its deficiencies.” Exactly right. Without the price system to transmit the information necessary to feed into the algorithm, it would not have the raw information necessary to make a reasonable calculation. Customers need the prices of alternative goods to decide whether they want to spend their money on Uber rides. Drivers need not only to consider the wages of alternate jobs, but also the subjective value of their leisure time.

Firms are islands of central planning. They don’t operate as markets, because of the transactions costs of using price signals. Firms have always used algorithms to allocate resources within themselves, this is nothing new to the computer age, it’s just that our algorithms are better today. I don’t think make or buy decision is as critical to the debate as Gurri implies, but it is an important part. The totality of the victory of the free market side of this debate is demonstrated by the fact that slight variations of their vision is considered a refutation, whereas the socialist side is not considered at all since it is too absurd.

Assorted Links on Greece

July 6, 2015

1. Greece rejects the bailout terms.

Probably on the whole good news, but as with anything, there are good aspects of this and bad aspects. Greece needs to reform. They need to balance their budget and reduce the amount of corruption. Voting yes would have helped them do that. However, they also need to default and get a clean start.

2. Yanis Varoufakis has stepped down as finance minister. He doesn’t seem too bothered.

3. Interview by Die Zeit with Piketty. I don’t like Piketty much, but this interview is fan-f’n-tastic. Nearly every line is quotable. The German culture surrounding debt is really terrible and it’s fun to see someone call them out.

4. Switching currencies would be hard. If Greece leaves the Euro, the natural question is “who is next”?, with possible answers of Italy, Spain, or Portugal. If any of those leave, the pressure on the remaining countries will increase. Without southern Europe the whole currency devaluation and unified market justification reasons for the Euro will be gone. What is the point if it’s just going to be Belgium, France, and Germany still in?

The Euro is not even close to being the optimal currency zone. The ECB have shown themselves to be completely inept. I see no reason why defaulting should result in leaving a currency zone per se. In the U.S., States and municipalities can default without leaving the dollar. Why not Europe? Should the Euro exist? Probably no. Should now be the time for Greece to leave? Also no. It would create too much chaos. Changing currencies should be done with careful planning and fairly long transitional periods. The U.K. is looking pretty darn prescient these days.greek debt copared

6. Scott Sumner comments.

Assorted Links

June 22, 2015

1. On the Reason gag order

Reason on Raisins

FEE on the Raisin case

2. On neural networks at image recognition. Includes an interesting bit on how computers can hallucinate.

3. Chemistry facts.

4. OPMs big data leak.

Assorted Links

June 1, 2015

1. The Science of Scarcity

2. Improving altruism

3. An informative law comic. I may have linked to this in the past.

4. An iron fish to improve health in Cambodia. I really like that stuff like this is invented from time to time. It’s nice that technology is used to help the very poor so even without a lot of economic growth, their lives are improving.

5. the less of something bad we see in the world around us, the more outrage we generate about the remaining bits.


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