Greece is now so successful that it will be borrowing money to pay its bills

4

“Greece Looks to Turn a Corner After Years of Economic Pain” (nytimes) is interesting for what it tells us about how modern humans think about economic success:

The proposed bond sale, the details of which were released on Monday, offered hope…

Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, the economy minister, said his country was “getting out of a rut,” adding: “There’s an opportunity for Greece to become a normal country.”

The bond offering does not mean that Greece is out of the woods. It is just the first of several steps that Athens must take to test whether it can raise money in international markets to support its economy and government operations when the latest bailout, worth €86 billion, expires in August 2018.

Greece continues to stagger under a mountain of debt, which is now worth €314 billion. [As is typical for American media, the journalists can’t be bothered to put information into context. With a population of 10.75 million, this works out to about $29,200 per resident of Greece. Compared to GDP of $195 billion, this is just shy of 2 years of GDP.]

Quick summary of the article: “This country has been so successful lately that it will be borrowing money in order to pay its bills.”

(Maybe in fact the money is going to be borrowed to redeem old bonds that are coming due? But the article makes it sound as though simply borrowing is a sign of robust economic health!)

Immigrant to re-join the labor force

4

Latvian immigrant Angelika Graswald is on track to be released from jail by the end of this year: “Woman Pleads Guilty in Fiancé’s Kayak Death on Hudson River” (nytimes). Ms. Graswald came to the U.S. as an au pair, married and divorced twice at a profit, and was on track to receive $250,000 in life insurance proceeds from the death of her fiance and kayaking companion.

Perhaps one of the New York tabloids will use this headline idea: “Immigrant to re-join the labor force”.

Readers: Can she now collect the $250,000? She pleaded to “criminally negligent homicide.” Is there an exception in a typical life insurance policy that would bar her from collecting? Also, what will her match.com profile say?

Related:

The denial of service attack that I launched on my own Dropbox

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Who has used Dropbox with a large number of files?

I recently added 761,765 files of Android source code to my Dropbox (accepting a shared folder from a friend). This is only 60 GB (out of a 1 TB quota), but Dropbox has been unable to push any of my own new files up to the cloud. Currently it says “Indexing 463,243 files” and seems to be stuck there (though the number of files fluctuates so I know that it is still running).

Did I launch a denial of service attack on myself?

Baumol’s Cost Disease can explain U.S. health care costs?

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In response to Government makes health care more expensive and therefore it is unreasonable to withdraw subsidies, a commenter wrote

Is the government responsible for Baumol’s Cost Disease?

Is the government responsible for extreme concentration of wealth?

The bulk of the problem is a lot simpler than you, Vance, and most others in the public square make it out to be.

Baumol’s Cost Disease says that industries with no productivity growth, such as string quartets performing live, have to compete for workers with industries that have high productivity growth and hire workers to write code for sticking ads into Facebook or press the “start” button on a fully automated factory.

“Drivers of health care expenditure: Does Baumol’s cost disease loom large?” is a 2012 paper by economist Carsten Colombier. He concludes that the effect is minor and mostly spending on health care has been “quantity-driven” (i.e., people are getting more tests and procedures, taking more drugs, etc.).

What about an informal analysis? “Obamacare Isn’t Stopping Doctors’ Incomes From Soaring” (Fortune, June 10, 2016) says

Far from flattening, as some Obamacare experts predicted, or even waxing in low-single digits like salaries for contractors, lending officers, beauticians, and most other workers, pay for doctors is surging.

Dermatologists, cardiologists, urologists, among others, are reaping double-digit increases that lift their salaries to the $500,000 a year range, and that’s not including substantial performance and signing bonuses, relocation allowances, and even full payment of their med school loans.

A system that fuels demand with huge subsidies, yet systematically restricts the supply, is a textbook formula for fast-rising costs. No illustration is more vivid than the problem with doctors’ pay, a category that accounts for 22% of all U.S. healthcare spending.

On average, family doctors got a $27,000 raise in the past year, from $198,000 to $225,000, for a 13% increase. Doctors in the two other primary care categories, internal medicine and pediatrics, also had great years. Each garnered 15% bumps to $237,000 and $224,000 respectively.

… general surgeons at $378,000 up 12%; dermatologists at $444,000. also up 12%; urologists at $471,000, up 14%; OB/GYNs at $321,000, up 16%; otolaryngologists at $403,000, up 21%; and non-invasive cardiologists at $493,000, which have seen their pay rise more than 30% above what they have been paid on average over the past three years. Orthopedists and invasive cardiologists also got inflation-beating increases of 4% and 5% respectively. On average, both specialties pay well over $500,000 year in salary alone.

[Note the spread between primary care and specialists. An American who has sex with a specialist earning $500,000 and collects child support should have close to the same after-tax spending power as an American who goes to medical school and works as a primary care doctor (works better in Massachusetts than Minnesota, though!). (The American (or foreign visitor) who has sex with two or three different cardiologists can have the same spending power as a cardiologist, if the state is chosen correctly.)]

If a fresh-out-of-training specialist can earn $500,000 per year by going to an “underserved” area of the country, how can we attribute this to competition with manufacturing employers? Intel gets tremendous productivity per worker out of its fabs, but how many Intel workers get $500,000/year?

If high salaries for people working in health care are primarily due to competition with other industries, why are those salaries going up at a faster rate than what other industries pay?

Nurses at one of our local hospitals are preparing to strike (Boston Globe):

Both sides agree that nurses wages’ at Tufts are below those of other Boston hospitals. Tufts officials say that they want to rectify that by offering a 10.5 percent raise over about four years to nurses at the top of the pay scale.

All other nurses would receive a 5.5 percent pay hike over four years, in addition to 5 percent annual step raises, which are already built into the contract.

The average pay for a full-time nurse at Tufts at the top of the pay scale is $152,000, according to the hospital.

Nurses are able to unionize and strike for higher pay, something that is unusual in the market portion of the U.S. economy. If patients would go to a cheaper non-union hospital rather than pay for these higher union wages, it wouldn’t be possible. So plainly there is some non-market factor in operation that makes consumers indifferent to the prices that this hospital charges and/or unable to go elsewhere.

Finally there is the patient experience. If we’re old we remember the days when seeing a doctor meant actually seeing the doctor and possibly a receptionist or nurse. Now the “doctor’s office” is stuffed with non-doctors embroiled in various paperwork tasks.

Readers: Can we relax and not worry that we spend 4X the percentage of GDP compared to Singapore or 2X compared to Europe on health care?

Related:

 

Government makes health care more expensive and therefore it is unreasonable to withdraw subsidies

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“A Republican Health Care Fix” is a misleadingly titled yet still interesting article in the New York Times. (Misleading because, of course, the Republicans aren’t proposing to “fix” health care except maybe from the perspective of the health care industry, which will appreciate the continued flow of taxpayer cash, and also because the article itself doesn’t offer any proposed solution.)

One argument in favor of food stamps is that the government has a lot of programs that distort the market and drive up the cost of food. Having done this, it makes sense to provide food stamps (SNAP) to tens of millions of Americans so that their net food expenses return closer to what it would be if they could buy food at world market prices.

Health care is in kind of the same situation, J.D. Vance points out (thanks, Brian, for reminding me that I made the same point in March 2017). Government drives up the cost of health care and now tens of millions of Americans can’t afford the new distorted prices. Vance highlights things like FDA regulation keeping generic drugs costing 10-100X the world prices and the employer health care tax deduction distortion to the economy, but I think he misses parts of the bigger picture. For example,  the Feds generate huge inflation by running Medicare and Medicaid on a “just send us the bill” basis. The Feds and states restrict competition with all kinds of licensing requirements for both insurance companies and doctors (e.g., a qualified doctor from New York can’t simply start practicing in Nebraska next week and a New Yorker can’t buy insurance that is offered to consumers in Nebraska).

Vance:

The “full repeal” bill is nothing of the sort — it preserves the regulatory structure of Obamacare, but withdraws its supports for the poor. The House version of replacement would transfer many from Medicaid to the private market, but it doesn’t ensure that those transferred can meaningfully purchase care in that market. … devising that vision [to fix some of the biggest disasters in U.S. health care] is impossible when we refuse to accept that the government bears some financial responsibility in solving a problem it helped create.

 

Feminism Is Leaving A Wake Of Unhappy, Unmarried, And Childless Women In Its Path?

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A physician friend IMed me “Feminism Is Leaving A Wake Of Unhappy, Unmarried, And Childless Women In Its Path” (Daily Wire):

Feminists claim to promote the advancement of women and gender equality, largely via the promotion of so-called sexual liberation, but their movement is leaving a wake of unhappy, unmarried, and childless women in its path, a real problem feminists seemingly refuse to entirely address.

According to a recent study from Yale University researchers, liberated, college educated women are freezing their eggs because they can’t find a man to marry and have children with before their natural childbearing years expire. In the U.K., for instance, one in five women is childless when their natural reproductive years expires, as opposed to one in ten women a mere generation prior.

So what’s to blame for this onslaught of college-educated yet terribly empty women?

The short answer is feminism.

The article links to “Shortage of eligible men has left women taking desperate steps to preserve their fertility, experts say” (Telegraph):

Prof Marcia Inhorn, Professor of Anthopolgy at Yale University, said professional women found themselves losing out in a game of “musical chairs” because there were simply too few men of the same calibre to go around.

“There is a major gap – they are literally missing men. There are not enough college graduates for them. In simple terms, this is about an oversupply of educated women,” she said.

This ties in loosely to Why don’t I know any single men? (my 2016 post that attracted 112 comments).

My response to the doctor:

Are we sure that there isn’t a simpler explanation? In the typical U.S. state or the U.K., a woman exposes herself to a property division and alimony lawsuit if she marries a lower-income partner. Why would a woman want to work hard until age 50 so that her husband can sue her and get paid alimony every month to have sex with a younger woman?

Her answer:

Funny you mention it. Just met anesthesiologist who is 51 – had a stay at home husband for 26 years (despite his engineering and MBA degree)- learned 3 months ago that he was rotating from one 26 year old to another.

(Note that the husband’s behavior is economically rational in Massachusetts or New York, but not in alimony-free Germany.)

Readers: What do you think? Does the egg-freezing industry owe its prosperity to (1) the abstract concept of “feminism,” (2) the economics of family law (marriage would give a male partner a financial incentive to discard an aging wife in favor of younger women, thus contributing to America’s shift to polygamy), or (3) more women have jobs that they love and they are too busy with work to find a partner?

Some reader comments on the cited Daily Wire story:

[Michael Hecht] The only reason I’m willing to settle down now is that my ex’s already cleaned me out…

[Pat Healy] Or maybe it’s because a large percentage of the available young men out there are un-marriageable pieces of crap, hopelessly addicted to porn, marginally employed, and essentially unable to care for themselves, let alone a family. My two dating-age daughters would lean heavily toward this explanation.

[Sentry, who describes herself as “one of the women who missed the first round of marriage”] Marriage poses a very real risk to men. They know that if the marriage ends in divorce, they will be kicked out of their home, lose their children, and half their income (sometimes more, depending on the state) for a decade or two. They know that if they offend their wives, she can lie about them, get them arrested for abuse that never occurred, get them jailed, and use their children as hostages and weapons. [interesting because it shows a conventional yet outdated view of family law as presenting litigation risk only for men.]

[Andrea L] That actually depends where you are. I lived in a “no-fault” divorce state. My husband refused to work, was very abusive to me and the kids (I found out later he was supplying drugs to the neighborhood kids). My lawyer told me that because I supported him during the marriage, he would get the house, the kids, the cars and child support and alimony even if the kids testified against him. I would have to pay all the bills. …

[Groundhog Day, responding to the above] Congratulations to your excellent choice!!! I know, it’s not your fault. It’s the men. They always magically morph from the most gentle, loving and romantic fellow into this abusive, binge-drinking, drug-abusing, child-torturing and wife-beating monster the very moment you toss the bouquet to be catched by the next victim of patriarchy – which feminism is actually fighting against…

[Allen Simms] … it’s taboo to criticize the OBVIOUSLY terrible choices of women. Women are the gatekeepers of sex, for better or worse. If women stop producing children with losers we will have much fewer losers. For some reason we find it okay to say “well the guy shouldn’t be a scum bag” but its not okay to say “women should stop opening their legs for scum bags”

[MattSE] Who wants to marry a pushy, self-centered broad who will probably divorce you 10 years from now?

[Stefan Stankovic, responding to the above] Not to mention, who the h3ll would marry a woman who needs multiple hands to count her sexual partners? That is becoming extremely common in my age bracket (I’m 24), and I would NEVER setlle with such a woman.

[VE, responding to MattSE] Read up on hypergamy, it explains why women can’t find ‘desirable’ partners. Essentially you’ve got all women chasing the top 10-20% of men and the pool is dwindling due to feminism and it’s real world deleterious effects on men.

[YeahNope, in the same thread] Polygamy is already prolific, it’s just hasn’t been formalized. Just by observing social groups you can see the high status men have unofficial harems of women that “share”.

[konokonohamaru] Not to mention, the fact that they’re looking for “committed” men is just a huge inconsistency in their worldview. They throw out religion, traditional values, and any semblance of moral absolutism, and they expect someone to commit to starting a family with them? Why should anyone do such a thing?

[David] Too many western feminized women use the biased anti-male laws to basically engage in serial marriage as a form of prostitution. This gives them the social veneer of “innocence”.

[PaulMurrayCbr] It’s that for men, commitment means lifelong, and for women it seems to mean “I’ll live with you for four to ten years and then I’ll leave you and take your children with me”.

[JoEd, responding] You forgot half of your net worth. They will take that too.

[KnowManIsle, responding] More than half.

[EventHorizon] … the problem is far less contentious: poor planning. Two days ago this very topic came up with a coworker. She is a nice lady that certainly is not your argumentative 3rd wave feminist. When she complained about her misfortune of finding a partner in her early 30s, I asked her “Percentage-wise, how important are your career and your desire to start a family to your life?”. She said “50-50”. When I followed with “So how do you actually split your time between these goals?”, she replied: “90% towards my career” …

Some reader comments on the linked-to Telegraph story:

[Ken Mitchell] There are just as many men as always – but when women earn more, there are fewer and fewer men who make even MORE.

[Cad Ders] Feminism is already a dead woman walking. All feminism has is shaming language and the State (ironically, ultimately other men) to keep men to the feminist line. … increasingly, the shaming doesn’t work. And men are disengaging from society in general to avoid entanglements with the state; if you don’t get married, you can’t be divorced, if you don’t co-habit you can’t have half your stuff appropriated, if you don’t have children, you can’t be on the hook for child support, if you don’t enter the corporate world you can’t be be accused of ‘harassment’ and if you don’t date you drastically reduce your chance of a false rape accusation. These are genuine threat points for men in the modern world that didn’t exist before feminism. … As feminism reduces the value of women (in men’s eyes), so men are reducing the amount of time, effort, attention and money they are willing to spend for the declining benefits modern women now bring to their lives. …  the truth is that men don’t want to fight women, it goes against the core of what it means to be a man. But feminism thrust men into a fight that they neither started nor wanted. To the point that feminists are reduced to crowing about ‘winning’ battles that men never turned up for.

[Charles Blackson] There is no shortage of men of course. It’s simply female hypergamy in action. I take issue with the implication that these are high quality females though. Not the case. Rather they are life’s genetic dead ends. The only way you can possibly fail at life itself is to fail to have children. These females are literally evolutionarily unfit to pass their genes on to future generations.

[M’erica First] Let’s just call it like it is and not the BS spin that the author puts on this. Women are all about marrying someone that has money. … And if the marriage doesn’t work, then they get half of said money. … My father warned me against marriage, but I didn’t listen. I hope my son listens to me. I will do a much more thorough job of documenting the pitfalls to him. I hope he sees that I was simply a meal ticket, sperm donor and financial slave to his mom’s whims.

[Ian Noble] The marriage market has also been globalised and men can now find a thin, well-educated (but without a ridiculous sense of entitlement), attractive partner with good personal hygiene and an intact hymen who enjoys looking feminine and pleasing her husband. Such women are almost impossible to find in the UK and no amount of ‘marketing’ will change this fact – just as no amount of marketing could save British Leyland.

[Harry Beckett, responding] Yeah, but when you buy a Toyota it can’t wait a few years, get citizenship. divorce you, take half your stuff and then bring in the Japanese owner it really always wanted in the first place.

[FG Lorriman] Nature is sexist, and if any girl has any notion of having a family and children, they need to prioritise that. Sure, get the degree, but don’t shag your way through university; instead find clubs/guys who are looking to start families young. … women past about 30 are losing their looks and pudging or sagging rapidly. If they’ve been on the corporate/professional treadmill of hard hours, hard drinking and hard sh*gging, then you can pretty much forget it.

[Per Olausson] Social media. The commoditisation of sex appeal, status, looks and appearance. The assurgency of the political correct not just of opinions and politics but also who is acceptable to mate with. …  Just put the smartphone down and interact with people you meet. Maybe something will sparkle. Even if he is “beneath and not worthy” of you. It worked for your parents and grandparents.

Related:

Long strange trip

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Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead is worth watching (streaming on Amazon Prime) even if you’re not a Deadhead. Not to spoil the show, but the best scene is Episode 5, 33 minutes in. The Dead’s lyricist,  Robert Hunter is asked to explain the lyrics to Dark Star. He recites

Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes.
Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis.
Searchlight casting for faults in the clouds of delusion.
Shall we go, you and I while we can

Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?

then asks the interviewer “What is unclear about that? It says what it means.”

My only brush with the Dead was a concert at Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater in the summer of 1982. A group of us young computer nerds (including a bunch of women; the New York Times hadn’t yet explained to them that they would never succeed in the industry) were chaperoned by Julie Sussman, wife of Gerry Sussman (but not the professor himself; “Gerry melts,” explained Julie). It was a perfect blue-sky day and the people who were on drugs seemed to be having a great time.

Will there ever be another American band like the Dead? The documentary suggests that there won’t be. Inexpensive real estate enabled the entire band to live and practice in a big house in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Zillow shows the value of a similar house today to be $4 million. A group of musicians like the Dead would today have to exile themselves to a small town where hardly anyone would ever hear them perform or go instantly into the most commercial genre possible so as to pay the rent.

Perhaps also due to the low cost of living in a lot of hip places, the documentary shows slender joyful people who don’t seem to be in a great hurry to get back to work.

The amount of drugs, especially LSD, that people were able to consume and still function is impressive. Jerry Garcia’s level of guitar playing is compelling, even for a mostly-classical music listener like myself (Rolling Stone rates Garcia as the 46th greatest guitarist of all time), and his work ethic is impressive. He pushed himself as hard as any Silicon Valley startup founder and kept pushing until his death at age 53 (which kicked off $38 million in alimony and child support lawsuits from multiple women against the $6 million estate; the documentary doesn’t cover this post-death scramble for cash, but you can read about it in the nytimes).

Perhaps there was selective editing by the filmmakers, but it seems that there was a lot less bitterness over politics compared to today, even though the footage spans the administrations of multiple presidents (at least Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, King Bush I, and Clinton) and there is no way that all of those guys could have appealed to all of the Dead Heads. None of the Dead Heads seem to be knitting pussy hats, protesting a government policy, or expressing their outrage over working conditions for a subgroup of employees at a company.

Readers: If you do love the Grateful Dead, what bands are their legitimate heirs?

How do you know how much your Tesla 3 will cost if the government handouts depend on exactly how many were sold previously?

2

The Tesla 3 is now in production and a lot of people are on the waiting list. “Tax incentives might run out on Tesla, but electric cars will be just fine” says

In the US, a federal rebate program gives buyers of electric vehicles a $7,500 tax credit for the first 200,000 electric vehicles (EV) a carmaker delivers. The credit gradually phases out once the manufacturer passes the 200,000 mark. Tesla has already sold more than 100,000 cars in the US.

How can a buyer who is on the waiting list know what the net price will be? The buyer of Car #200,000 pays less than the buyer of Car #200,001, right? But there is no way to know exactly where one is in the queue, is there? Even if one knew one’s position among Tesla 3 buyers, Tesla could sell S and X models at sufficient rates to put a Tesla 3 order well beyond the 200,000th car built by Tesla. (After 200,000 cars the phase-out is calendar-based; details.)

Does it simply not matter? People who are rich enough to buy a Tesla don’t care if they pay $7,500 more than budgeted?

Separately, should Tesla have set up a separate “TeslaLite” corporation to build and sell the Tesla 3? That would be good for an additional 200,000 times $7,500 = $1.5 billion in government handouts?

Related:

  • “Predicting When US Federal EV Tax Credit Will Expire For Tesla Buyers”
  • Economic analysis of the $3 billion Cash for Clunkers handout (NBER Working Paper 20349); mostly taxpayer cash went to subsidize people who were going to buy cars anyway (i.e., taxpayers who weren’t rich enough to buy new cars subsidized Americans who were rich enough) and the “environmental component … failed to meet its environmental objectives in a cost-effective way” (if we had wanted to cut energy consumption and pollution, there were a lot better ways to spend $3 billion)
  • Free Golf Cart–But Call It A “Low-Speed Neighborhood Vehicle” (CBS); the 2009 program where fellow taxpayers, via a tax credit, would pay up to 100 percent of the cost of an electric golf cart, typically around $6,500. See also the WSJ: “The IRS has also ruled that there’s no limit to how many electric cars an individual can buy, so some enterprising profiteers are stocking up on multiple carts while the federal credit lasts, in order to resell them at a profit later.” (The WSJ also showed how out of step they were with the modern USA: “This golf-cart fiasco perfectly illustrates tax policy in the age of Obama, when politicians dole out credits and loopholes for everything from plug-in cars to fuel efficient appliances, home insulation and vitamins. Democrats then insist that to pay for these absurdities they have no choice but to raise tax rates on other things—like work and investment—that aren’t politically in vogue. If this keeps up, it’ll soon make more sense to retire and play golf than work for living.”; Obama is gone, but Congress is just as devoted to this kind of tax policy as ever!)

The Real Purpose of Parenting

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I was gulled by the title into downloading The Real Purpose of Parenting as an audiobook from Audible. Here are a couple of Amazon reviews that we can be pretty sure were not placed by the publisher:

It seems I’m the dissenter – but I started to hate this book. First, the author could have made his point in 15 pages, but the book is interminable (at just 196 pages) – presenting anecdote after anecdote, some of which are, as far as I can tell, barely relevant. Second, the presentation is pretentious and the prose tiring. Third, the book seems so intent on making a very specific point that it tramples over a considerable amount of potentially useful ancillary material. Difficult to read, sloppily written, a touch arrogant. With those gripes in mind, the author’s primary argument is perfectly valid, but not original (Brain Rules for Baby males the some point, in one sentence, 3 years earlier. . .). Bleghh.

As soon as Dr. Dembo started talking about how ridiculously centered our culture is on winning at all costs, and the fact that we don’t give our children any space to fail and learn, I found myself shaking my head in agreement. The trouble is, the author outlines the problem eloquently, and repeats it ad nauseum, but never really makes good on his claim to tell us what the alternative is, at least not in a realistic way. Yes, he does offer some examples from his own practice, but I suspect the half dozen examples or so are only the ones that had relatively happy endings. … I invested some seven hours listening to the Audible.com version, and believe a good blog article about listening to your children more and having more respect for who they really are and what they want and are capable of, would have achieved just as much.

As with most titles in the self-help section, the reviewers are correct in that a 15-page essay would convey the same information. The book was narrated by the author, though, and it was kind of interesting to hear just how convinced of his own importance a psychologist could be. (Actually it is unclear exactly what credentials make the author “Dr. Dembo”; he isn’t listed at healthgrades.com or vitals.com and a Google search didn’t reveal what his educational background might be. On the third hand, there is no research evidence that PhDs in clinical psychology are more effective than minimally trained laypeople at providing talk therapy.)

Dembo opens the book by attributing most of America’s problems to Dr. Benjamin Spock, the author of a 1946 book that Dembo seems to think was used as a bible by American parents (how many of them bothered to read even one book on parenting? and how many Americans actually follow the Bible for that matter?). According to Dembo, Dr. Spock told Americans that their children should be constantly reinforced with positive experiences, thus building their self-esteem. Dembo says that the result is children who are terrified of failure, afraid to try, and prone to cheating and/or lying in order to avoid or cover up failure.

What’s the solution though? Send a child to Poland on an exchange? (see Smartest Kids in the World: Poland for “In Poland, the lowest grade was always one, and the highest was five. After each test, he waited to see if anyone would get a five; no one ever did. No one seemed surprised or shattered, either. They shouldered their book bags and moved on to the next class. Kids in Poland were used to failing, it seemed. The logic made sense. If the work was hard, routine failure was the only way to learn. ‘Success,’ as Winston Churchill once said, ‘is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.'”) Dembo doesn’t say.

The anecdotes that Dembo provides are mostly of parents who don’t bother listening to their children and push them to live the parents’ dreams. Eventually the child snaps, quits college, and goes to work at a blue collar job. But what about Tiger Mom? She pushed her daughters to achieve academic and musical success and it apparently worked out wonderfully. If being an American means aspiring to collect SSDI, take OxyContin, and play Xbox, what is so bad about parents pushing children to do something other than than follow their natural inclinations? Usually in the families that Dembo describes there are multiple children and all but one actually did achieve what the parents hoped for. Shouldn’t we look at statistics rather than anecdotes to figure out what is likely to work out best for the average child?

One area where Dembo’s advice seems sound is, if your family has gotten to the point where everyone is riled up and shouting all the time, it makes sense to establish a set of laws (he calls it a “family constitution,” but really it is more like a legal code) that can be applied dispassionately. Reflecting the fact that every American who isn’t addicted to opiates is addicted to electronic devices, all of the suggested punishments are removal of phone/tablet/computer/Xbox privileges. So instead of yelling at a child for doing something bad, remind the child of the previously agreed-upon rule and punishment (“consequence” in the doublespeak of the book). Parents should have the demeanor of a police officer writing a speeding ticket.

Dembo’s experience is with families functional enough to get down to his office and pay his bills. Thus they tend to be upper-middle-class two-parent households, hardly representative of the modern U.S. (see “Fewer than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family” (Pew Research)).

This book does raise the question of whether there are any good books on parenting per se. Are there any good books on interacting with other adults? How To Win Friends and Influence People? If there aren’t good books on how to have successful interactions with other adults, is it reasonable to expect that there should be good books on how to interact with children?

Readers: What else is out there in this subject area?

Related:

  • The Nurture Assumption, a research-based book that concludes the main influences parents have on children are (1) genetic, and (2) choosing a neighborhood (thereby choosing a peer group)

Women are oppressed by technology but somehow incapable of shaking off their digital chains

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“Tech has become another way for men to oppress women” (Guardian by way of a Facebook friend) describes women being victimized by male-developed software:

Millions of people bark orders at Alexa, every day, but rarely are we encouraged to wonder why the domestic organiser is voiced by a woman. … But the issue is not only that technology products reflect a backward view of the role of women. They often also appear ignorant or indifferent to women’s lived experience. As the internet of things expands, more devices in our homes and on our bodies are collecting data about us and sending it to networks, a process over which we often have little control. This presents profound problems for vulnerable members of society, including survivors of domestic violence. Wearable technology can be hacked, cars and phones can be tracked, and data from a thermostat can reveal whether someone is at home. This potential is frightening for people who have experienced rape, violence or stalking.

Products that are more responsive to the needs of women would be a great start. But we should also be thinking bigger: we must avoid reproducing sexism in system design. … We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected.

As is typical for articles describing what should be happening in offices full of computer nerds, the author has no experience with computer nerdism: “Lizzie O’Shea is a human rights lawyer, broadcaster and writer.”

If women are oppressed, as Ms. O’Shea suggests, why don’t they write their own software for female use? It doesn’t take a lot of programmers to build functional software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop was built by two programmers). Why don’t the world’s nearly 4 billion women shake off their digital chains? Can it be due to a lack of market size? Somehow these billions of women aren’t able to purchase their own software and/or choose which online services to use? Is the Guardian suggesting that there is a lack of basic intelligence among women? They can’t see that they are being oppressed by male-developed computer programs? Or perhaps the Guardian is suggesting that there is a lack of basic competence among women? What mixed-sex teams were able to develop in the 1960s (Internet), 1970s (Unix), or 1980s (Windows) is beyond the capability of an all-women team in 2017?

How is it possible to believe that women are oppressed by technology without simultaneously believing some deeply insulting stuff about women?

(For the record, I don’t personally believe that women are oppressed by technology and therefore I am not forced by logic to make some negative inferences about women’s intelligence or competence.)

Some fun reader comments on the article:

You see, if you immediately cast women as fragile victims, you are basically agreeing with all the worst misogynist stereotypes that should have been consigned to the nineteenth century. It always amazes me that so-called progressives eagerly embrace the idea that women need to be protected from the big, bad world. But I shouldn’t be amazed, because it is a direct consequence of identity politics – when you look at the world through the prism of difference, everything becomes divisive, and ‘equality for all’ is replaced by a competition for who can claim to be most vulnerable. When it comes to political power these days, nothing stands in the way of the victimhood juggernaught for too long. Of course, the great irony behind this article is that technology has enabled women, and men, to transcend many aspects of traditional gender roles. The effect of technology in the home, workplace and our leisure time has transformed how we spend our time, and how we communicate with one another. The anonymity of the internet often means you cannot judge someone on the mundane aspects of their identity – gender, race, sexuality. Instead you have to engage with what they say and believe. Technology has been a great existential leveller.

Facts are a tool of patriarchal oppression and should be replaced with NewTruth(tm) that define exactly how the world ought to be… Siri, name something toxic? “Masculinity”

Barking instructions to Alexa? Huh? If it was a male voice, then we would be asserting female oppression as we look to a ‘man’ for answers to all our questions!

Alexa was created by a woman. It’s two lead engineers were also both women, and the person who managed the entire team responsible for bringing it to market was Toni Read, a woman.

Indeed. In the past, women were chained to their sinks. Now, they’re chained to their phones.

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