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Overpopulation Laffer Curve

May 9, 2019

“Division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.” = Adam Smith

Most people think of Smith’s assertion as being about trade or even just about people working on different tasks, but that’s only a part of it. Division of labor in a modern economy is primarily about division of knowledge. Technology itself requires large numbers of people to implement and maintain.

I’m sure most readers have read I, Pencil, but there have been a few projects where an individual actually attempted to make something by themselves. My favorite of these is the Toaster Project. It shows quite clearly just how modern technology requires a large number of people to work properly and how if you want to do something with a small group of people, you need to revert back to older forms of technology. You simply couldn’t create a modern computer with a society of less than 10 million people or so.

Furthermore, not only does technology require large groups to implement, it requires even larger groups to create. You need to achieve high living standards before a significant fraction of your populace can devote their lives to discovery and science, and the further you push into the frontiers of knowledge, the more you need to understand a prerequisite amount of fundamentals before you can make a contribution. As the Simon-Ehrlich wager showed, increasing population does not inherently increase scarcity because as resources become more absolutely scarce, people invent ways to conserve them and thus reduce their per capita need for specific resources.

agricultural share

Even food, which would seem like a hard limiting factor is less constraining than it would first seem. GMOs, better fertilizer, irrigation, more productive crops, and other technological improvements have led to less agricultural land use, lower food prices, and less hunger than in the past, despite much higher world population. Yes, more people mean a need for more food, but those people also farm, fish, and discover new technologies.


Putting all of this together, it seems clear that increasing the world’s population would lead to less scarcity and higher living standards. Not only is overpopulation not a problem, it’s literally the opposite of a problem. There has never been an example of too many people for an area to support. The densest populated areas tend to be the richest areas. Per capita income in Manhattan is much higher than per capita income in Wyoming and not without good reason.

It’s certainly easy to imagine a world where there are so many people that individual living standards fall, but we are no where near such a world. The Repugnant Conclusion has always seems completely silly to me, since by far the most common situation for humanity to be in is where more people would raise the living standards for the average person, so the only sensible conclusion is to maximize the population. There’s no drawback other than triggering humanity hating idiots who’ve never actually looked at economic data and seen the huge positive spillover benefits the average person produces.

simon abundance index.png


Intermittent Fasting and other Diets

April 10, 2019

The time period between 2012 and 2016 was a difficult one for me fitness-wise and I gained a substantial amount of weight, from around 200 lbs up to 235 and almost hit 240. I was very unhappy at that weight and felt powerless to address it, having gone on very difficult calorie-restriction based diets without much success and with unendurable hunger levels. Yes, I guess you could call me weak willed or gluttonous for failing at those diets, but when I went through is not at all uncommon. I believe there is some environmental factor which has made maintaining a healthy weight much more difficult in the last 40 years, and it doesn’t do much good to moralize about it when we are all just meatbags going through various chemical reactions. One person being fat might be a personal failure, but 35% of the population being obese suggests some underlying cause.

From November 2016 to January 2019, I was on a ketogenic diet, albeit with fairly frequent cheat days. Initially, I lost approximately 20 lbs, dipping down to 215 in the summer of 2017. However, from then until the winter of 2018, my weight more or less stayed the same. If I attempted to go off keto, I rapidly gained 10 lbs, which I would then lose slowly when I went back on. I felt trapped a bit, although it was better to do keto at 215 than not and be at 240 and climbing.

I have been a long time reader of Miles Kimball’s blog, Confessions of a Supply Side Liberal. In the last couple years, he has changed his focus from supply side economics to diet and health (fortunately for me). Between him and Gary Taubes (who I learned about via Econtalk), I have been convinced of the insulin-centric theory of weight change. Essentially, eating a lot of foods with a high GI for extended periods lowers your body’s response to insulin and thus makes you more hungry and gain weight faster.

Keto worked fairly well for me, but it was a difficult diet for a few reasons.
1. Eating with other people is very difficult. You can only eat foods without carbs, so that means you can’t eat at restaurants, parties, potlucks, etc.
2. There’s a lot of prep work.
3. Food choices are limited.
4. I had health issues with it. Perhaps I could have refined my diet and been more careful with nutrients, but basically as practiced, I don’t think I was eating as healthily as I could have been on a non-keto diet.
5. It’s more expensive than non-keto diet.

Intermittent Fasting has worked quite well for me in the last 4 months. I dropped 5 lbs quite quickly and have hovered around 210 ever since. I only fast 2 24 hour periods per week, which to me seems really easy compared to keto. I feel like if I want to lose weight, I just do 22 hour fasts until I’m at the weight I want to be and if I want to eat normally, I just do. Socially, there is basically no pressure, since if you go to a party or whatever, you can eat normally with no special foods required and then when you get back, just don’t eat for 20 hours. If you overeat one meal and feel fat, just fast for a day. No matter how much you eat in one meal, a day of fasting will take care of it.

Fasting itself is much easier than I thought it would be. Sleeping resets my “hunger clock”. No matter how hungry I am going to bed, if I can get myself to fall asleep, I will wake up feeling normal. After 2 days of doing 22 hour fasts, I do start to feel empty, but honestly, for single day fasts, the hunger isn’t too bad. Eating high fat/fiber meals for your daily meal helps a lot too.

I don’t want to be one of those annoying evangelical dieters who goes around telling people “oh, you’re fat – try the diet I’m doing”. Honestly those kinds of people are insufferable. Instead, I’ll just write a blog post about it. If you’re fat and don’t want to be and want a new approach, try fasting. I like it, maybe you will too.

My Favorite Ships in World Of Warships

April 9, 2019

Tier 2
V-25 – This ship is lightning fast, tiny, and has forward firing torps. It greatly rewards an insanely aggressive playstyle that you can’t find at the higher tiers.

Tier 3
Katori – I love this ship simply because of how insanely quirky it is. There’s just nothing else even remotely like it. It’s the slowest ship in the game at 18.9 knots, is rather fragile, and only has 4 guns which don’t do a lot of damage and have quite lazy arcs. However, the guns have decent fire chance and are incredibly accurate. I’m not sure if it actually has the best sigma in the game, but in my experience, you either hit with all four shots or you hit with none of them – even at max range! If you know how to aim, this ship will reward you. However, it’s not an easy ship to play by a long shot.

The Vampire is also quite good, but has a more normal gunboat DD playstyle. The Valkyrie is very similar if you want a non-premium DD.

Tier 4
Shen Yang – Clemson guns at tier 4 (albeit fewer of them) and deep water stealth torps, and quick smokes makes a great combo at this tier with many players who haven’t figured out how to dodge unspotted torps.

Tier 5
Tier 5 is in a rough spot with MM right now. It’s pretty tempting to only want to play the OP premiums that have long been removed from sale: Kamikaze, Guilio Caesare, Gremy, etc. However, I’m going to pick the Emile Bertin. It’s extremely fast and has decent guns.

Tier 6
There’re a lot of solid tier 6s and it’s the first tier of Warships that I really consider well developed and well balanced. The Shinonome has great, fast firing torps and good guns. There are many great cruisers at this tier: Graf Spee, Leander, Budyonny, La Galissonniere, and Aoba are all great. The Warspite is my favorite BB at this tier with great guns, the improved heal, and decent speed and armor.

Tier 7
The Blyskawica was the second premium I ever bought and so holds a special place in my heart. It’s been pretty power creeped these days, but I still like the playstyle. The Shiratsuyu is probably my favorite tier 7 DD.

My favorite CA at this tier is the Fiji with a huge toolkit of consumables and fantastic DPM. The tier 8 and 9 RN CAs just don’t seem to improve much from the Fiji and by the time you get to the Minotaur, its just too fragile for my tastes.

I don’t really have a favorite tier 7 BB, but I don’t own a Nelson or a Scharnhorst and those are the two that everyone talks about as very good. I’ve had quite good results with the Ashitaka. You can’t argue with ten 410 mm guns at tier 7.

Tier 8
My favorite DD at tier 8 is the Harekaze. It’s got both great guns, torps, speed, and concealment. You can’t really ask for much more in terms of a jack of all trades DD. The Charles Martel is my favorite cruiser with good all around stats and the reload booster adds another tactical dimension to play. There are many solid silver ship picks for battleships at tier 8 with the Amagi, the Bismark, and the North Carolina all being excellent.

Tier 9
All the tier 9 premiums are very strong. The Kronstadt is my favorite cruiser. Yes, the accuracy of the guns is bad, but they’ve got good DPM and amazing penetration on the AP. It’s a very tanky cruiser which gives you staying power that other cruisers lack. The combination of long range radar and high velocity guns allow you to punish aggressive DDs.

For DDs, I like the Kitakaze. It’s guns create an unending torrent for fire for anything unlucky enough to be in range. The Z-46 is also amazing with the combination of long range hydro, good concealment, and fast reloading torpedoes.

My favorite BB is the Jean Bart. In a straight up BB brawl, it’s not all that great, but it excels at fighting cruisers and even DDs. The speed and reload booster allow for interesting strategies that other BBs just aren’t able to perform, like moving to unexpected early game positions and then exploiting the resulting broadsides hard.

Tier 10
Grozovoi – Ever since the rework, the Grozovoi has been downright over powered. The guns are just fanstastic, especially with a good captain. I don’t go for a full gunboat build, but even with a hybrid build (PT, PM, LS, AR, SE, SI, DE, CE), it can gun down most enemy DDs you encounter and with 6.0 km concealment, you can get the drop on them easily. You have the AAA to make enemy carriers think twice about dropping you, and the torps are decentish.

My favorite tier 10 cruiser is the Moskva, mostly because of the amazing guns. I just unlocked the Hindenburg and have been enjoying that as well. I don’t really have a favorite tier 10 BB. The Yamato’s guns are good, but the playstyle is rather boring. Maybe the GK. That’s pretty good and very tanky.

If by Socialism

January 16, 2019

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about socialism. All right, here is how I feel about socialism:

If when you say socialism you mean totalitarian dictatorship, crushing all individuality, the abolition of property, the utter destruction of civil society, the elimination of the freedom to pursue happiness, creating misery and poverty, yea, literally taking the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil ideology that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say socialism you mean providing for those less fortunate, creating public works which support civilization, of creating uniform rules to reign in companies acting against common interests; if you mean taking a fair share of someone’s earnings to support a society which allows them to work peacefully with others in a productive way; if you mean that policy of using our treasuries to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our disabled, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Keto Curry Cauliflower Recipe

December 6, 2018

This is a pretty easy (altho not fast) recipe that can be easily scaled up and is very healthy.

2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 bell peppers (or equivalent volume of something spicier – I prefer 3 jalapenos and 1 bell pepper)
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of sour cream
2 cups of shredded cheese
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon of garlic salt. Adjust depending on how salty you like food.
Hot sauce to taste

1. Put grease in the pan and heat on medium.
2. Chop onion and add to the pan.
3. Chop peppers and add to the pan 5 minutes after the onions.
4. Trim leaves/stem off of the cauliflower and steam it in a large pot until soft. Usually takes 12-15 minutes.
5. Drain water from pot and put cauliflower in a bowl and mash.
6 Add spices, sour cream, and cheese and mix.
7. Once the onions have cooked for 30 minutes and the peppers for 25 minutes, mix them into the cauliflower. The onions should be translucent and somewhat soft but not caramelized, and the peppers should no longer be crispy.

Add peas, lentils, beans, tofu, or meat.

Slavery and Development

October 12, 2018

One of the core ideas in economics is the difference between zero sum and positive sum transactions. Because of a belief in zero sum, some of the stranger arguments I’ve seen on the left is the belief that slavery was actually good for the South, since obviously it was bad for the slaves themselves. It’s similar to the “Dependency Theory” of the early post-war period where since colonies were screwed over by Europeans, therefore Europeans must have been made much better off. Nope. Sometimes things are bad for nearly everyone involved. Slavery is certainly one of those things.

For the slave-owners themselves, slavery was awesome – free labor plus you can abuse them as much as you like without repercussions. But for literally everyone else in the society, including future generations, it was a horrible deal.

1.) Farms exhibit inverse productivity in relation to size. That is, the larger the farm, the less productive it is. This result has occurred across many societies, from Africa, to Europe, to Asia. Plantations were less productive than sharecropping.

2.) Slavery inhibited the development of human capital – slaves were not allowed to read or write, nor to learn any sorts of advanced skills. Economies are reliant on skilled workers and thus slavery handicapped the most important aspect of any economy.

3.) Slaves had a principle/agent problem. The incentive they had to work was not wages, but instead to avoid being beaten or killed. Therefore they didn’t work as hard as free laborers and slave owners had to spend a lot of money keeping them in line.

4.) The institutions of the South and slave holding areas worldwide were extractive and underdeveloped relative to those of areas without slavery. The best distribution of wealth and political power for economic development is that with a large middle class. Slavery created an aristocracy and a large mass of slaves and extremely poor disenfranchised whites who did not own slaves. This inequality is corrosive to democratic institutions and discourages innovation and entrepreneurial activity.

5.) As an empirical fact, slave owning areas were far poorer than non-slave areas, even if you exclude the slaves themselves from the calculation, which makes it massively worse. The welfare loss to the slaves cannot be overstated (to put it in a very euphemistic way).

6.) Cotton was a highly profitable natural resource export and thus acted like a natural resource curse. Resources flowed into exploiting the resource and thus did not get spread out into diverse productive enterprises. Why develop industry or infrastructure when you can just farm cotton?

Anyone arguing that slavery was good for the Southern economy has a high burden of proof, since such a conclusion flies in the face of previous empirical work and economic theory.

Addendum: There is a situation where slavery can improve the economy (if you ignore the slave’s welfare) – A production technology with a very high mortality rate. Non-slaves won’t volunteer for a suicide job, but you can force slaves to do it. Pre-modern mining was often like this, like the Roman mines in Spain or the silver mines of Bolivia. I would guess that there were safer methods of mining, but the costs exceeded the costs of replacing slaves. I don’t think this example is relevant to the modern world.

Market Monetarists Won a Long Time Ago

October 9, 2018

I was extremely active in the macroeconomics blogging community from about 2009 to 2014 or so, and while I haven’t been too active for the past few years, I have been checking in on things from time to time. The macroeconomy has been doing great since the crash, even if the Fed did not try to do any catch up growth, but the remarkable thing about the recovery (now a boom, I think it’s safe to say) is its stability.

Just look at that! Barely a budge! When you compare it to a 4% NGDP target, there is just about as much area above the curve as below it.

For the next graph, I took GDP from 4/1/2009 to 4/1/2018 and compared it to a flat 4% growth over that period, then I subtracted the difference between the two and took the natural log of the result (to minimize the exponential growth aspect of GDP).

Here’s the same data, but without the natural log and instead expressed as a % deviation from GDP:

If anything, NGDP at the start of Trump’s presidency was a bit too low relative to a 4% NGDP target. I cannot believe this level of consistency would be attained randomly. Rather, the Fed was convinced to pursue an NGDP target as early as 1/1/2009 and has maintained a consistent target ever since then. The result has been the most stable macroeconomy in U.S. history as well as very low unemployment. Not only can market monetarists claim victory at the Fed, I think we can claim victory for our ideas in terms of successful real-world policy performance.

The only other period with NGDP stability comparable to today is the 1990s, but at about 5% NGDP growth: