Welcome, Sturdy, Sober, Hard-Working Danes! (Other Danes Need Not Apply)

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Tyler Cowen reviews a new book calling into question Scandinavian welfare states as a model for the world, and working out its implications for immigration policy:

Nima Sanandaji, a Swedish policy analyst and president of European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, has recently published a book called "Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism." And while the title may be overstated, his best facts and figures are persuasive. 

For instance, Danish-Americans have a measured living standard about 55 percent higher than the Danes in Denmark. Swedish-Americans have a living standard 53 percent higher than the Swedes, and Finnish-Americans have a living standard 59 percent higher than those back in Finland. Only for Norway is the gap a small one, because of the extreme oil wealth of Norway, but even there the living standard of American Norwegians measures as 3 percent higher than in Norway. And that comparison is based on numbers from 2013, when the price of oil was higher, so probably that gap has widened.

Of the Nordic groups, Danish-Americans have the highest per capita income, clocking in at $70,925. That compares to an U.S. per capita income of $52,592, again the numbers being from 2013. Sanandaji also notes that Nordic-Americans have lower poverty rates and about half the unemployment rate of their relatives across the Atlantic.

It is difficult, after seeing those figures, to conclude that the U.S. ought to be copying the policies of the Nordic nations wholesale. It is instead more plausible to think that Americans might learn something from the cultural practices of Nordic-Americans. Sanandaji says those norms include hard work, honesty, a strong civil society and an ethic of cooperation and volunteerism….
 
For one thing, Nordic immigrants to the United States probably came from the better trained, more literate and more ambitious segments of the population. For instance, data on Danish migrants from 1868 to 1900 show that laborers were underrepresented in the group and artisans and craftsmen were overrepresented by a factor of two. It is perhaps no wonder that the ethnic Danes in the U.S. are relatively high earners, because they are the results of a process of positive selection.  And there is a growing literature showing that the cultural traits of migrants can persist to some degree for generations in their new countries….

Most of all we should consider the option of greater freedom of choice for residence decisions. For all the anti-immigrant sentiment that is circulating at the moment, would it hurt the U.S. to have fully open borders with Denmark? It would boost American gross domestic product and probably also improve American education. History teaches that serious assimilation problems would be unlikely, especially since many Danes already speak English. 

Open borders wouldn't attract Danes who want to live off welfare because the benefits are so generous at home.

How's this for a simple rule: Open borders for the residents of any democratic country with more generous transfer payments than Uncle Sam's.

A few observations: Simple one-to-one comparisons of Danish to American living standards are not very meaningful, because even if Americans make more money, they have higher living expenses. They have to pay for (or do without) many things a Scandinavian welfare state provides for free or subsidized. How exactly do you calculate the effect on living standards of guaranteed paid parental leave, health insurance, pre-school education, and public transportation so effective that nobody has to buy a car?

That aside, though, notice the argument Cowen is making. Cowen is a professor of economics, a centrist with libertarian tendencies, and an interesting blogger. Being libertarian, he tends to be in favor of immigration in general. Economists tend to like many kinds of immigration, because it fosters economic growth and comparative advantage and those sorts of things.

But since Cowen is a pragmatic American, he accepts two arguments as so obvious as to need no elaboration. First, that immigration should favor the talented and intelligent. The Danes America got are doing well in America because they come from a successful culture, and because they were some of the most enterprising people in that culture. Second, he notes that immigration policy should obviously not attract people "who want to live off welfare". (Also, note that he uses the word "selection" in reference to getting better Danes. The German version of this word, Selektion, is thermonuclear-level verboten in Germany because it was the term used for the process of determining which new arrivals at Nazi death camps would be selected for immediate death, and which would be put to work).

Both of these arguments will immediately be disputed in European Urban Haute Bourgeois circles. Trust me, I know from personal experience. European urban elites who have liberal-arts educations are educated in hothouses of deontological thinking, in which experiences and policies should be evaluated according to abstract universal principles of humanism. In this view, selecting immigrants is denounced as elitist, as ignoring the "sacred principle" of human equality, as treating some persons as more inherently valuable than others, and as implicitly asserting the supposed "superiority" of Western culture.

Discouraging welfare tourism is denounced for similar reasons. Also, you often encounter the notion that Europeans have no "right" to live in comparative safety and prosperity, and therefore have no legitimate objection to foreigners coming to their country and living off state assistance their entire lives. What are you trying to say, that Joseph from Cameroon somehow has less right to live off German welfare than Josef from Dibbersen? Both are human beings, both have the same entitlement to inviolable human dignity, and therefore both must be treated equally by the welfare state. You didn't choose which country you were born in, so how is it fair for you to reap the incalculable privileges of being born in a place like Germany as opposed to, say, Zimbabwe?

To which the average Brit or American (but not Peter Singer) responds: What's all this bosh? These arguments may have abstract appeal in a seminar room, but as guides for formulating policy in a Western democracy, they're useless, not even wrong. Principles are all well and good, but they're hardly a guide to practical policy-making. Favoring skilled immigrants is legal, proper, does not violate any mutual obligations we may owe to others, and benefits us. Same with making sure foreign welfare cases don't burden our system, which is designed for our people. And no, we think the notion that making sure our welfare system helps our people is not only proper, but that it's the only remotely sane approach. And we feel no need to justify or explain these views. As Disraeli said, "Never complain, never explain."

This, gentle readers, is one of the most fascinating and enduring differences between the mindset of the educated elites of the English-speaking world and those of continental Europe.

15 thoughts on “Welcome, Sturdy, Sober, Hard-Working Danes! (Other Danes Need Not Apply)

  1. As usual, mostly right, but the wrong parts are more egregious than usual or maybe I am just getting more cranky and irritable.

    There really is no major dichotomy between the U.S. and Germany in matters of virtue-signaling, political correctness, pathological altruism, disloyalty of “elites” to compatriots, and irrational Islamophilia (more on that later).

    In fact, much of that pernicious nonsense starts in the U.S., where Ivy League academics become famous promulgating it, then moves across the Atlantic to Europe. (The reverse direction is also seen — e.g., French “thinkers” like Lacan and Derrida — but not starting with Germany.)

    It’s true that all Anglosphere countries get more skilled immigration than Germany, but the U.S. is not the most selective. New Zealand and Australia are both beneficiaries of geography and culturally more inclined to pursue their self-interest.

    How could Germany attract more skilled immigrants? The sad news is, probably very little potential for improvement in the short term. Picture a brilliant software engineer, or a solid-state physicist, from Guangzhou China. Why would he pick Munich or Göttingen over Sydney, Vancouver, Palo Alto, Auckland or Singapore? It wouldn’t be take-home pay. And even if s/he happened to find a German employer willing to pay extra over his international competitors, there remains the huge hurdle of language: English is the world’s universal second language, it enables you to move anywhere (especially within the Anglosphere), whereas learning German only enables you to converse in two other countries: Austria and Switzerland.

    Supposedly this hurdle is getting smaller as more German firms institute an English-only policy (even when only Germans are in the room), but don’t underestimate the difficulties that most educated Germans still have conversing effortlessly and fluently in English. Our man or woman from Guangzhou is well aware of them.

    So what is the unique selling proposition that Germany can offer skilled immigrants, if it isn’t money or language? Is there one? Actually, there are three, which I’ll subsume under the acronym RBB: the Rhine, Bach, and Beethoven. For East Asians especially, the Rhine valley is one of the wonders of the world, up there with the Grand Canyon and possibly even more beloved as it’s not only about nature but also culture. The enduring love of the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans for baroque and classical music is expressed in the large numbers of hugely talented students qualifying for spots in Germany’s conservatories and in the regularly sold-out concerts when German symphony orchestras tour the East.

    The RBB draw cannot match the money/language draw of the Anglosphere, but it is real and Germany should nurture and cherish it to get whatever benefits that can be gotten. Unfortunately, incidents such as the Islamic State follower nearly hacking four Hong Kong Chinese to death on a train near Würzburg are noticed in the East. And so is the proliferation of brown faces with sullen, resentful expressions in the downtowns of Germany. Don’t think that the visitors cannot tell the difference: we don’t “all look alike” to them.

    Since high-IQ immigrants to Germany will be few in number, the country will just have to work harder on developing its indigenous high-potentials. Finally, not only high-IQ immigrants are needed. Already there is a shortage of carers for the elderly. To be good at this job, you don’t have to be a university graduate. A kind heart, a good work ethic, and three years’ vocational training suffice. Muslims are not the best-suited talent pool for this line of work. (Cue the shouts of “racist!” and “bigot!”, I don’t care.) From my personal observation, Christians from West Africa are a good fit for what’s required. They should be actively recruited and moved to the head of the line.

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  2. Some questions stay unanswered forever (intertwined, not in that order):

    1) Why should a foreign high- potential have any economic interest in leaving his country at all, especially if it’s booming?

    The chances are all there – not elsewhere. In my humble experience, those that came had – except from real political asylum – the following reasons: a) Culture (Beer, Bratwurst, Octoberfest, the Rhine, yes, Heidelberg, Paris, the Louvre, Barcelona, Rome, etc pp) – visit Europe as a somewhat quaint, but beautiful tourist attraction while b) learning your way around the world and c) gathering up on an education / job experience different (not necessarily better any more) than back home. Just like any European would.

    Some remained stuck here for family reasons, but were not necessarily at advantage to the stay-at-homes. Well, life means choice and consequence. There will probably be some high- ranking foreign- born executives / engineers / finance people here, but – well, just have a look at the recent history of the Deutsche Bank. It was all right as long as Germans ran it / or: Germans ran it as long as it was all right.

    2) Why should Germany have any economic interest in foreign high- potentials?

    Aren’t there enough home- made ones? And if so, why not? Please – not the bullshit demographics explanation, please! That’s a) a relative problem and b) easily rectified with a will. You cannot expect foreign high- potentials to come to you and simultaneously export high- potentials out of your own education system elsewhere – as a program. That’s self- contradictory. That’s fouling up your system.

    Personal fluctuation there will always be, but for personal preferences, not as a general rule. An engineer is an engineer. You may import or export a specialist, but that, by sheer logic, is the exception, not the rule – and then has no economic hindrance anyway; the market rules. How many companies, between countries of similar standing and open borders, exchange personnel, except for personal reasons – or to be a representative of your company – but guess who employs you then.

    Which brings me to the conclusion: The whole idea that a world economy can only thrive if a wandering herd of high potentials graze the economies of this world, leaving piles of shit behind them, literally is neo-colonialist bullshit.

    It has never really worked, and it will never really work. There is such a thing as brain drain, oh yes, but that’s due to both your countries failing. The one drained is messing up its economy, the draining one its education. A pull can only be generated if a country with a strong economy cannot recruit its own people, and another cannot employ its educated. With countries on par, there is little to be gained either way.

    So? Germany is at the moment messing up its educational system, leading to an immediate shortage of high potentials. And it is messing up its economy, just to make sure that in future there shall be no such shortage. These are already leaving the country in droves. The fictional “Syrian doctors” were needed only to replace the German ones leaving for Switzerland (where, yes, an education in medicine is far more expensive).

    Of course, this could also be achieved on a higher level by de-messing Germany’s family and education system and, in consequence, de-messing its economy in about 20 years time, but the other road is so much easier to take – and a shame it is, too. And it would take an interest in the country’s wellbeing. In the country at all.

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  3. This may be slightly off the topic, but I don’t understand why Germany hasn’t put any REAL time or energy into building reciprocal apprentice training programs with neighboring EUROPEAN countries. During this shite storm of illegal migration last year we were told that Germany desperately needed these people to make up future population shortfalls. When these people who walked in proved to have no qualifications, no education, no grounds for asylum, the government spun this ridiculous “integration is important” lie out. And we in Germany will see and pay for these permanent welfare cases for years. Why hasn’t (or didn’t) Germany look to Hungay, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, etc. to find the machinists, the die makers that the mittelstand was supposedly lacking? Working with Gymnasiums in these countries, Germany could have set a curriculum in place (including) German language to make graduates of the Gymnasium or technical school ready to come to Germany and fill the (supposed) thousands of job openings. Instead, the Volkshochschule is going to spend millions teaching German to barely-literate Afghans, Syrian wives (whose husbands will probably never let them leave the house) and other Magreb losers, instead of building a program to get EUROPEANS into Germany. Why is this so difficult, Andrew Hammel? Seems like a no-brainer. And, a final point, German industry is going to invest a LOT of money in robotics, so manufacturing jobs, even if Mohammed could do them, are not going to be here. Also, both Mercedes and BMW’s main production centers will be in the US by 2020–yep, all robotic assembly. In Georgia and South Carolina, I think. Andew, any comment? If one believes all the blather, Germany COULD have solved a big part of Europe’s unemployment problem–instead it let in herds of illiterate, unemployable men.

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  4. It’s not about economics, that’s just a cover. EU leaders could not be clearer that they want to dismantle nation states and large scale muslim immigration is one of the tools they’re using.

    They don’t integrate – fine! Less social cohesion.

    They’re not very educated and prone to crime – wonderful! That will distract people’s attention.

    They aggressively want the majority to follow their particular religious practices? – win win! it sterilizes the progressives and enrages the conservatives who snipe at each other instead of us!

    They suck up an inordinate amount of social benefits? – Great, we can disinvest in the citizens and eventually wean the migrants off welfare by the time the programs are bankrupt, if they turn violent and/or to crime to make up the shortfall well we’re on the right side of history by tearing down borders.

    If you haven’t understood that yet you’re not paying attention.

    Just today Juncker the drunk said that borders were the worst invention ever. You might not want to believe he’s serious but he is.

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  5. If one believes all the blather, Germany COULD have solved a big part of Europe’s unemployment problem–instead it let in herds of illiterate, unemployable men.

    From the The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes: “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

    So, how about this then:

    The coalition of German government & opposition (with industry, I would suppose) had, and has, no intention whatsoever of solving a big part of Europe’s unemployment problem – instead it let in herds of illiterate & unemployable people, in effect turning Germany into a huge refugee camp for Africans and near eastern Muslims with Germans in charge & in public employment as – well, as the Leftist Party put it today: Why not give refugee-helping volunteers long-term state-paid employment in public service? Why not indeed. They’ve proven their bias on earth peace, and good will toward men, haven’t they? See? That’s how you solve the GERMAN unemployment problem! For the next 40 years at least. Lifetime employment, you know.

    A program to “get EUROPEANS into Germany”, as you propose, would miss out on that.

    (That this is short-sighted, stupid, suicidal, blatantly anti-european and a setup for future civil war does not bother the money-mongers of the present in the least)

    BTW, has anyone noticed that asylum seekers aren’t finding large sums of money and / or returning them any more – or is that so common it’s just not newsworthy by now?

    But perhaps the Germans, thanks to their new and orderly flatmates, have learnt their lesson and become less slatternly.

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  6. Or, to put it more succinctly:

    Germany does not really need very many engineers & trained workers in future – see: Your point on robotics, “Industry 4.0” blah blah blah; the goal being man-free fabrication.

    What ist does need is employment for millions of soft studies graduates.

    In short: 20/80

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  7. So you’re saying that German migration policy is a jobs program for otherwise unemployable _Germans_.

    Ever since I found out about Potemkin companies I see jobs programs everywhere the way the kid in the movie sees dead people.

    It’s mostly useless busy work instead of some kind of guaranteed basic income (which the refugees themselves will vegetate while receiving).

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  8. Well, it’s an easy explanation – especially if you consider that these jobs (refugee work from home, no need to travel…) create jobs now for young & old voters. Elections, coming up… and – ze future?! PAH!! That’s what’s nowadays called Nachhaltigkeit – sustainability thinking.

    I’ve given up on finding excuses for the obvious. It’s very much easier to accept that that, what is, is intended as well – by the powers that be.

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  9. Then what the fuck is your problem, man? If the volunteers finally get a decent payment and a long-term job, it means they’re not dependent on the welfare state any longer. That’s briliant. What we need right now are jobs, jobs, jobs. And if the unemployed young people from Spain, Portugal and Italy want to do them as well, why the hell not? I know that in your world view these evil “80 percenters” are probably all useless freeloaders, but you gotta get over the fact that we don’t live in the days of Adenauer and Erhard anymore. Other people now also want their fair share of the cake. Get used to it.

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  10. Hmmm. Looks like a taxpayer en passant just proved several points I made – now, that’s all very nice, but doesn’t it hurt really bad when an eggbeater hits a brain like that? The gooo.. all over the wallpaper, too. Ick.

    Anyways. Stakhanov – I was thinking about our little conversation about the future economic state of this country (world?):

    The trouble is – to my mind at least – there are, exemplary and somewhat in order of durability, hard and soft sciences (nice to google): mathematics (AFAIK never had to revise an axiom or law yet in the past 4000 years), physics (well…), chemistry, then biology, geology… and medicine (according to Dr. Chase “not a hard science” :-)). And there is complete and utter bullshit, posing as “science”.

    This order has something to do with reliability of outcome. Maths do not surprise you. 2+2=4 will probably always apply throughout the universe.

    Now, economics isn’t (always) bullshit, but in my eyes it’s not even a soft science, yet; it’s vodoo of sorts.

    Economists may “use mathematical modelling“, but their basic assumptions are taken out of thin air.

    Let no-one be fooled by the fact that the “Chicago boys” paid a Swedish bank to fork out a colloquially so – called “Nobel prize for economics” – it ain’t. It just lauds the invention of yet another “mathematical model”. And yes, I suppose that any card sharp worth his salt has harder models on his line of game under his hat.

    The way I see it, economics is like a pre-science today – it has about the intellectual and experimental standing of alchemy (as opposed to chemistry, before the table of elements – much knowledge, but no or wrong model), astrology (as opposed to astronomy – rigorously uses “mathematical modelling” on unverified assumptions), or medicine before enlightenment got rid of the witch doctors here (and witches to boot). Or perhaps biology before Linné or Darwin… or DNA. you get my drift.

    This necessary christening or scientific revolution IMVHO has not yet taken place in economics; that’s why the outcome of any economic experiment is so unpredictable (and one of the reasons why you need to keep a stock exchange).

    Therefore, I shall in future refer to economics

    as

    Alconomics

    I like that much better.

    Interestingly, some of them seem to notice (G) – though from what I gather from that short excerpt, it’s still full steam ahead, but in the wrong direction. They haven’t bitten the bullet yet.

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  11. Looks like a taxpayer en passant just proved several points I made –

    Yes, poor fellow was out of commission for a couple of weeks after you cruelly deprived him of his precious bodily fluid by your repeated triggering 🙂

    Economics — well, in one sense you are right (see the tale of the blind men examining an elephant: each touched a different body part, taking them to different conclusions), but in another you are wrong. I believe there is broad agreement among economists on a large corpus of theorems, rules of thumb, cause-and-effect relationships, which empirically are known to yield good predictions. However, this agreement often does not carry over into the public arena. The fault lies with politicians who overpromise to win elections and with special interests manipulating the public through the media. And even when economists get their recommendations adopted, people will eventually start modifying their behavior in response, throwing predictions off. Finally, economics by itself does not teach values or ethics, nor should it. Which values will prevail to guide policy decisions is left to the political process, messy as it is, hence the degree to which we can blame economists is inherently limited.

    Of course, there are economists who will say anything to please the highest bidder or because ideology trumps economics for them (thus they should not even be called economists). You can tell who they are by looking for economists whose predictions turn out to be wrong more often than usual or whose policy recommendations lead to disastrous outcomes.

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  12. benny, I feel your pain. If one believes that wealth is a pre-existing thing and that it is unequally and unfairly distributed, then one will indeed strive to remedy this deplorable condition by taking, if need be by main force, from the well-endowed. (Importing welfare cases so that you will have paid employment is highway robbery.) However, consider the consequences.

    A recent example which you may have heard of: in Ferguson (Missouri), a number of people took advantage of civil unrest to loot the stores in their neighborhood. Thus they enriched themselves in the short term but did not stop to consider the consequences, namely that the stores would close and they would be left without local retail outlets.

    Instead, think about what you could do that would fetch a price in the marketplace.

    As a wise man said,

    None are so lowly that they could not aid those stationed higher in life, and none are so exalted as to not require the services of the lowly.

    I am presently to poor to pay for household domestics. However, a night watchmen’s state that would do little else than defend the realm from intruders and keep the domestic peace would lower taxes by so much that I could afford to hire you as a fac totum, give you room and board, a Lakaienuniform (don’t you love the word Lakai — it sounds so much better than “lackey”!), some pocket money every month, and a Christmas bonus. I would keep you so busy that you would soon forget your resentful schemings of revenge and looting; you would go to bed every night tired but content with having performed your duties well.

    So you see, we depend on each other, you and I. All that is needed is that we develop wisdom to acknowledge this truth and act accordingly.

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  13. So you’re saying that German migration policy is a jobs program for otherwise unemployable _Germans_.

    Nothing new, really. Some some decades ago already, I once knew a female accountant that had lost her job to accounting machines (excel predecessors) and received vocational training as a mechanic (women’s liberation, taking toll).

    Now, what German industry did not need, even way back then, was a 30-something, second-rate, de-motivated female industry mechanic newbee.

    Who was doing the training? 60-something out of work industry mechanic meisters who had fallen out of the top end of their employment.

    So people you wouldn’t need were trained by people no longer needed for something that nobody needed; all courtesy of the German taxpayer.

    If that isn’t bread & games, I don’t know what is.

    Applying stringent logic to wrong assumptions is returning to witchcraft.

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  14. Who on earth would want a night watchmen’s state, apart from a few computer nerds and casino owners? This alt-right libertarianism you’re espousing is a crackpot ideology for a very tiny minority. You guys may be a force on the Deep Web, but as soon as the internet connection is cut off, you’re fucked. Tough shit.

    Honestly, Hayekian economic policy obviously has had its day since the 2008 global financial crisis. It ruled the waves for thirty years, now it’s time for a change. In the 20th century, we witnessed the excesses and the dangerous destructive force of the totalitarian state. We now have developed a healthy alterness to governmental abuse, but for a long time we failed to see that a total free-market approach can be destructive in a similar way. Many, many years ago, the rule of law meant protection from the state. But disadvantaged groups now have learned that the state can also be helpful against private discrimination. It’s an important lesson, and slowly more and more people are seeing the dangers of private companies doing their own thang while neglecting the people.

    As for your fetish dreams, well, let’s just put it this way: There will come a point at which the peasants from the hills come down to lynch the squires and burn their SUVs. What you’re trying to do is divide et impera. But imagine if all those currently disparate groups, the East German locksmith and the Berlin LGBTQ activist, the low-wage Amazon packer and the Syrian refugee, the homeless man and the squatter, the Hartz IV recipient and the left-wing anarchist, the feminist university graduate and her pensioner grandmother, the environmentalist and the Afro-German human rights campaigner, the small-trader and the social worker, would unite? I can already see our wannabe Howard Roark, Stakhanov, sitting in his Hafencity loft, reaching for the revolver to protect himself…

    (Sorry for the rant – that Stakhanov guy brings out the worst in me)

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  15. Mmh-hmm.

    You have heard of iatricide (to be killed by a medic)? There is lore among doctors that, during the very few times medical doctors went on strike in the last century or so, somewhere in the world, the overall mortality rate went down in that location (giving the docs a very good reason not to try that again, ever!).

    Of course, this may be untrue, or caused by postponing risky treatment, but… they say doctors heal about a third of their patients, one third gets well on their own, and another third deteriorates despite treatment.

    No doctor (with average patients, of course) therefore should fall below a 66.6% success rate? If it falls below 50… this doesn’t mean you want to live in a world without doctors.

    There is lore, too, among bankers, that a chimp experimentally throwing bananas at a stock broker’s chart has the best portfolio in the long run – i.e. random action beats deliberate.

    Again, perhaps untrue – but I don’t think there is that kind of lore among mathematicians or rocket scientists. Practical engineers, yeesss… but they are often on the cutting edge of trying things out. Still, airplanes seldom fall from the sky, and if they do, they usually know why.

    In economics, it’s the other way around: those practicing it as shopkeepers, factory managers, even hedge funds, do quite well – or go out of business; but the overall theory behind it is usually cuckoo.

    You’d be surprised how often some interpretation of Marx turns up at the bottom, conservative or liberal – and even HE (a blogger of his day) didn’t come to terms with it – he wanted to have it finished for ever in a few weeks (which Engels was happy to finance), and hadn’t finished by the time he died, filling book upon book with spaghetti, trying to hit the square peg into the round hole. His followers tried in vain to get to the bottom of that bottomless pit, and those that adopted his theory failed.

    I don’t mean that as a slander – so many have tried. Alconomics have just not had their marriage with reality – yet.

    Once they do, there will be war.

    As far as I can see, that has always been the case. The fast ones pick it up first – and win.

    Think of it: Sure-Fire Economics (TM). No need to guess or bickle. You hit what you aim at. This action will have that result. Every time. Or at least in 66.6% of all cases. So if a gvt does st, everybody will know the outcome beforehand, and will take action accordingly. So it won’t. No more lullabies – but war at first, I suppose.

    Rude awakening, like.

    I think people (by evolution?) are used to first accept what they see and hear, then test it, chuck out what is wrong, and live by the rest. That’s brain economics for you: don’t worry about the bit you cannot test.

    This is all right in a surrounding where you can trust your senses and / or your tribesmen, and leave the rest to gods and demons.

    But if you are being lied to, the untested rest leads you into a trap again and again. In that case, it may be wise to do the following:

    Add a first step: Go negative (TM). Assume that everything you see and hear is wrong, assume the exact opposite to be true (flip), THEN test it, chuck out what is wrong, toggle back, and live by the positive rest (flop). Always assume the driver ahead is a nitwit; do not assume that strangers (or acquaintances!) are friendly by default; etc.

    Now, if that multiplies your hits and reduces your misses, then a) good for you, and b) you know what’s going on; if it doesn’t, go back to default positive acceptance, and congrats: you live in trustworthy surroundings. Nice old German joke: Taxi driver at night crashes through every red light but slams on the brakes at the green ones – why?*

    It’s sort of like Ockham’s razor, and fun. For example, take your sentence:

    I believe there is broad agreement among economists on a large corpus of theorems,…

    Just for a moment of thought exercise, flip to negative:

    I believe there is NO agreement among economists on a large corpus of theorems… which empirically are known to yield BAD predictions. This DISagreement often DOES carry over into the public arena…This sounds possible (not: true!) Next:

    NO fault lies with politicians who UNDERpromise to LOSE (WIN) elections..Obvious trash (incl. the rest) – toggle back

    Cave: In this case, the problem lies not solely therein that part 1 sounds possible as a negative and the rest does not; but that part 1 sounds possible as a positive OR as a negative and the rest does not. That’s the crack where the crowbar goes in; that conjunction is not safe.

    Of course, that’s all very rough, mechanical and primitive. But when Galileo (or whoever) found that the erratic movements of the planets turned into simple circles / ellipses if you assume the sun to be in their focus, he had to accept the possibility that the earth (and humanity) was NOT the center of God’s universe and interest. Oh, dear. The Inquisition!

    Or take Andrew’s original post on immigration rules, and Sandro’s comment on it, both seem sane enough; but you can be sure that some, usually (but sadly not always…) highly- paid court alconomic will jump up and yell that the opposite is true, and won’t be fired on the spot.

    So, test all of them in their negative: that reliably overrides the blind spots. Like, say, that “not all taxpayers are taxpayers”, instead of “all taxpayers are taxpayers”. Which just rings true, and which is true?

    Pooh. Time for a coffee.

    And: One of the strangest things I’ve read about the great depression was that while soup kitchens were doling out soup to the ragged, farmers were being paid to destroy their products and the warehouses were full of merchandise. Wares and money just do not mix, Charly. 🙂 Hard times ahead.

    Time to make the wrong move.

    *because of the others

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