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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Blog Roundup

1. Intrigued by Yaron Brook's discussion of the bad faith shown by the New York Times to the blogger Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex fame, I have been meaning to take at look at that blog for some time.

I haven't gotten to it yet, but I'll be ready when I do. That's because I came across a guide to Slate Star Codex (and its successor, Astral Codex Ten) by Jason Crawford, whose other blog, Roots of Progress, should be familiar to readers here.

Here is Crawford on the question What makes the blog so good?
nyt.jpg
"All the news personal information that's we see fit to print." (Image by Frieder Blickle, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)
Scott writes with a rare combination of insight, humor, incisive clarity, relentless questioning, and (often) exhaustive data analysis. He asks big questions across a wide variety of domains and doesn't rest until he has clear answers. No, he doesn't rest until he can explain those answers to you lucidly. No, wait, he doesn't rest until he can do that and also make you laugh out loud.

At his best, he hits some strange triple point, previously undiscovered by bloggers, where data, theory, and emotion can coexist in equilibrium. Most writing on topics as abstract and technical as his struggles just not to be dry; it takes effort to focus, and I need energy to read them. Scott's writing flows so well that it somehow generates its own energy, like some sort of perpetual motion machine.

I like to think that I'm pretty good at writing. I'm good enough that I convinced myself to quit my day job and to write instead of coding or managing (which I'm actually qualified for and which can definitely make you more money). But I'm not nearly as good a writer as Scott. [links omitted]
After this introduction, Crawford offers a short hit parade of posts that stood out to him, with links and short descriptions.

This list indeed knocks out the obvious problem the blog poses for newcomers: the intimidating number of existing posts and the very wide range of subject matter.

Incidentally, Crawford has begun writing a book on progress and is offering a paid lecture series on topics from the book. Information on that series, including prices and topic listings, is available here.

2. With summer around the corner and child care not completely back up to speed for us, I will have a few weeks scattered across my summer in which I'll be juggling child care with my intellectual pursuits. Some of this will be high quality time spent with my kids, but lots of it will be low quality time (not quite) spent with my thoughts.

A recent post at Thinking Directions will help: Within, Jean Moroney describes some strategies for overcoming common contributors to poor productivity during low-quality time.

For example, did you know that perfectionism can rob you of even achieving something during such times?
Perfectionism is part of the problem if you feel that you should be figuring out the best task to do during this in-between, low-quality time. But you don't have the quality time needed to do serious prioritizing. You probably don't know how much time you have. Instead of making a list of options, look at this as time for puttering through tasks on an ad hoc basis, seizing the opportunity because it's there.

In these situations you can benefit from adopting a (contextually) egalitarian attitude toward the tasks. Anything you might be able to do now is good enough. Taking time to choose is bad. It's more important to pick one and act on it than to discover the right one -- because that could use up all your time. This egalitarian attitude is not valid as a way of life, but it is a valid, important tactic to use in a situation where stopping to figure out the best thing to do would mean you wouldn't get anything much done.
She follows this with a few possible mantras that will help you remember the strategy.

The other obstacles discussed are: lack of planning, lack of commitment to a particular task, and failing to clean up before taking an interruption.

3. At the blog of the Texas Institute for Property Rights, Brian Phillips describes the onerous requirements for a housing voucher program he has decided not to participate in:
The voucher program requires each property to meet certain criteria, such as having an operable stove and refrigerator. I do not supply appliances because tenants have a tendency to abuse them. To be eligible to accept vouchers, I would have to spend about three months of profits to purchase appliances and then subject myself to future repairs and replacement.

When a property owner applies to enter the voucher program, each property must be inspected. While most of the requirements for passing inspection are reasonable, past experience has shown me that city inspectors have great discretion in interpreting the rules, and the inspectors are often arbitrary in their interpretations. If any violations are found, the property owner has a limited time to make repairs. And if the property fails a second inspection, the entire process must start anew.

Even if the property meets all of the requirements, the process to obtain approval can easily take two months. During that time, the property is vacant and generating no income while insurance and mortgage payments must be made and property taxes are accruing. In short, meeting the requirements of the program can easily wipe out a year of profit. [bold added]
You may ask: Who in his right mind would participate in such a program?

You may or may not be surprised to learn that Phillips is deemed a "racist" for declining to do so despite these facts and that, in addition, over three quarters of his tenants have been black.

4. A near-perfect follow-up to the above post comes from business professor Jaana Woiceshyn, who explains "Why CEOs go 'woke' -- and why they shouldn't" at How to Be Profitable and Moral.

The second part is directly relevant to that situation:
... If business didn't produce and trade material values, we would be reduced to subsistence agriculture of our ancestors -- and to their miserable poverty.

Producing and trading material values require the pursuit of profits as motivation. Without a potential to earn a return, there would be no shareholders willing to invest their capital in business. The legal fiduciary duty is therefore to the shareholders, and not stakeholders. Shareholders risk their capital without which the business could not exist and thus deserve to profit.
The post ends in part with a refreshing example of a high-profile investor who resisted today's destructive fashions by refusing to divest his fund from fossil fuels.

Regarding fiduciary duties to shareholders for corporations and following on thoughts by Alex Epstein, I think that certain large investors (of other people's money) who foist ESG on companies they own should be sued and otherwise held to account for their actions.

-- CAV

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