Essays In Idleness Yoshida Kenko, the world of P.G. Wodehouse, Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow Jerome K. Jerome, In Praise of Idleness Bertrand Russell


Ok, I guess that last one wasn't the last.  Sort of about immigration, not really.

David Brooks' column this morning is about immigration.  I haven't read it all yet.  But, his third paragraph was worth commenting on
Increased immigration would boost the U.S. economy. Immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start new businesses than native-born Americans, according to a research summary by Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of The Hamilton Project. They are more likely to earn patents. A quarter of new high-tech companies with more than $1 million in sales were also founded by the foreign-born.
 I'm sure someone will argue that those statistics are so carefully crafted as to be made up.  But...

Those immigrants aren't coming here because of extensive nets of family and connections here to support them.  The are not coming here because of our great social safety net.  They aren't coming here because we have great welfare benefits that support them in taking risks.

I'm not suggesting we burn the ships of childhood behind people when they turn 21.  At the same time, the idea that guaranteeing everyone three squares and entertainment will lead to great inovation by freeing people to take risks seems equally crazy.  And the growth in the "long American century" we recently passed out of seems much more like it was founded on immigrants coming here with very little and making something than on a system of organized cash entitlements.

Last post?

Maybe.  I haven't been posting in a while.   I have been writing some drafts, and jotting a few notes to myself, but not "finishing" anything (to the entent that anything on here was finished).  Mostly I either get sucked into topics that are too big, or I get interrupted.  Then, when I come back to the draft, I realize that posting it won't get any feedback, so...

:turns off the lights.

Platinum Coins & Management

This post (interfluidity) is the proximate cause of this post.

The government has conflicting powers and limits.  Is the government so powerful that it can create a rock it can't lift?  It is all about perceptions and trust.

Ignoring the current political maneuvering, I think there is a more fundamental divide.   Some people look at the existing, incoherent, laws and see an intent to limit borrowing and use that as a basis for their position.   Others look at the existing, incoherent, laws and see no technical limit on borrowing.  (A large group looks at the existing, incoherent, laws and seems a political opportunity, but I want to ignore that.)

Those who see intent and want to follow it unless convinced that the earlier reasoning was incorrect, and those who see no technical barrier to doing what they see as correct are at odds.  They are conservatives and progressives without the capitals.  Even if both sets of people agree there is a problem that needs to be solved, if that tension cannot be resolved, teams don't function.  The conservatives spend all of their time trying to nail down all possible procedural channels and technical loopholes -- which they generally aren't good at because they don't quickly see the loopholes -- and the progressives spend all of their time individually implementing new things -- which generally cause as many issues as they solve because the implementors are afraid to discuss the ideas before implementation.

I don't have a solution.  I do have three observations that can help with the issue at a team level.

1.  Recognize the problem and don't be afraid to reference both intent and technicalities.
2.  Align rewards for everyone towards working together and outside goals
3.  Get rid of the people who are motivated primarily by political maneuvering.

For a team, that's hard, especially when it is often managerially impossible to say that the system is stable at the moment and doesn't need change.  Doing so means many people on the team leave for other positions, leaving the team unable to cope with the need for change later.   Large scale politics seems even harder.

Political Incoherence

I take a bit of amusement in the recent "Obama is a Republican" meme (for example, see this article.  Not that long ago, Democrats were cheering that their man won and it showed that the country was against the Republican ideology.  Now many seem to be excusing faults they see in the president by claiming he's really not one of them anyway.

I shouldn't really be amused by this incoherence though.  Even if all of its members are consistent in their preferences, the preferences of a crowd of people need not be consistent.  Add on the "me too" nature of memes and there is no real reason we should expect rational consistency in the public opinions of any large group over time.

That said, I think the "Obama is a Republican" meme is still a bit incoherent.  Think about a big crowd milling around a convention center floor.  Lots of people and hard to move.    Some of the vendors have signs that they show above their booths so that people who are specifically interested in them can move towards their known location.  Other vendors might have representatives moving their the crowd gathering attention where they are.  (If you prefer, think of store fronts and buskers on a square with active street life.  It may be a better picture, but I rejected it because it implies inequality in the two actions.)  Both strategies -- maintain a known position and advertise it vs go too where the concentrations of people are and recruit them -- make sense and a mixed strategy plus a booth that changes location each year -- to sit in different parts of the traffic flow and positioned with different neighbors -- is probably most common in convention vendors and in politics.

In that analogy, it seems like the "Obama is a Republican" meme is saying that the president is standing where the Republicans used to have a booth.   Ok, but not very interesting unless you assume that your favorite vendor is allowed to change over time, but the ones you don't like aren't.  The more interesting question is whether the Democrats have a booth there and he is standing next to it, or whether he is a wandering representative who has moved far from the rest of the Democratic representatives?  

Side thoughts because I like the analogy.

* I think I agree with the characterization that Republicans would prefer the booths were more important than the wandering sales reps, and that the booths mostly stayed in place year after year.

* I think there is a tradition in the Democrats which believes in the sales rep approach as being pragmatic, but then also complains that their message is incoherent.

* The convention is hosted by the two big vendors.  Everyone else pays much more, gets a smaller booth and is much less likely to be on the planels or giving invited talks.

Not really related to the analogy, but I like the hand-wringing over the Third Way and Blue Dog Democrats in the way as liking the above meme.  A party in the position of trying to use the election results to imply support for an agenda and at the same time trying to reject the policies of some members of the party, which calls into question the actual amount of support for the approved part of the agenda.

The problem with "dog whistles"

I keep hearing that Republicans use "dog whistles" to signal their secret agenda to each other in ways that the non-initiates can't hear.  How does someone come to that opinion?

* Do they hear the dog whistles?  Not much of a secret message then.
* Did someone tell them of this secret system?  And they believed it?
* Do recognize it because they do the same thing?  And don't mention their own use of course.

More seriously, I think the problem isn't "dog whistles" and secret signs, it is "teen whistles" and (tone) deafness   Emitting tones, perhaps without knowing it, which many people can't hear, but which are grating to those who can.  They don't draw in the initiated, but instead drive away those who still hear them and can't tune them out.

Leaving aside the talk about "dog whistles" as just strategic posturing and a tactic of defining your opponents, my suggestion would be that the Republican party needs to become more self-aware.  Think about how they sound like and stop driving people away.