So we have atheist economists preaching suppression of covetousness:
“That’s why I propose the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club. The tenth commandment—”You shall not covet”—is a foundation of social peace. The Nobel Laureate economist Vernon Smith noted the tenth commandment along with the eighth (you shall not steal) in his Nobel toast, saying that they “provide the property right foundations for markets, and warned that petty distributional jealousy must not be allowed to destroy” those foundations. If academics, pundits, and columnists would avowedly reject covetousness, would openly reject comparisons between the average (extremely fortunate) American and the average billionaire, would mock people who claimed that frugal billionaires are a systematic threat to modern life, then soon our time could be spent discussing policy issues that really matter.”
Meanwhile, religious leaders are advocating covetousness:
“Inequality is the root of social evil.”
I’ve used this blog post from economist Bryan Caplan several times to explain Bayesian thinking to people – basically the idea that we should derive our opinions from the sum of information about a topic rather than selected data points (likely chosen because they support our presupposed biases). I recently posted a review of the Business Insider website and pointed out one of the things I enjoy so much are their interest grabbing headlines.
I realized today one of the reasons I like the headlines so much is that they boil what is typically a complex issue down into one definitive assertion. Consider these just from today:
Wall Street’s Brightest Minds Reveal THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARTS IN THE WORLD
The Real Reason Why Market Rallies End
A New Poll Shows Americans Don’t Actually Understand Anything About The Deficit
The most important chart in the world, the real reason rallies end, Americans don’t understand anything about the deficit. I’ll quote Kip Dynamite: “Like anyone could know that.” While fun to read, this one blog post is proof that Business Insider is the least Bayesian website on the Internet. 😉
The first usage of the term “surfing the Internet” was around 1992, and as one who was surfing around that time I can tell you that the idea that you could surf from page to page with interesting content was a great idea, but in practice rarely happened. Instead, it was more like constant clicking on hyperlinks trying to find anything worth reading. In surfing parlance I guess you could say the Internet was just a bunch of close outs. Wikipedia was a step toward the surfing vision, where at least the content was reasonably good and the hyperlinks had a good chance of being interesting, but I was still in search of the perfect wave.
The wave has arrived, and it’s called Business Insider. The headlines and format are perfectly designed to grab your attention and break down the article content into a specified number of points (“25 hidden gem real estate markets”, “the highest paid player on all 32 teams”), with a picture for each point. Then, at the end of the article, a link to another article, with another catchy headline, that you’re almost guaranteed to like (because they use all the page view data to figure out interest graphs of other people like you). In find myself clicking, and reading, and clicking, and reading and it just seems like the interesting content never ends. Business Insider is the Banzai Pipeline, with a tube that covers you up completely and never breaks.
It took about 20 years, but the Internet surfing dream has finally been realized.
As part of my campaign travels I regularly fly on Delta Airlines, and have achieved “Medallion” status in the past. A few years ago they implemented “roll over miles” which would allow you to roll over the excess miles (over a given Medallion level) towards the next year’s status. Today they rolled out a new policy called “Medallion Qualification Dollars” (MQDs) that require you to not only meet a mileage threshold but a dollar expenditure threshold to achieve elite status. Of course the MQDs cannot be rolled over, and are calculated such that they are effectively eliminating the effect of roll over miles while simultaneously eliminating frequent fliers who travel on the lowest fares. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! While this probably means yours truly will spend even more time sitting in coach, from an economic perspective it makes sense to just move the whole program onto a dollar spent basis. However that will probably not sit well with the masses who make a hobby out of frequent flier mileage arbitrage.