Sunday, October 2, 2022

Sunday Night Links

  • One way to think of the future, in a world of declining population, is as a reopening of the frontier. God has so arranged things that a fully developed economic cornucopia relative to ancient poverty is waiting to be claimed by those who will simply show up for the future by welcoming their own children into the world. The Culture of Death centered on hedonism, self-sterilization, and abortion is erasing secular populations. The Culture of Life will triumph of simple necessity. All of the above-replacement populations are highly religious; none are secular. It seems that only transcendent religious convictions enable mankind to fulfill our most basic duties and escape hedonism when given the choice. [The Tom File]
  • Many were expecting a pandemic baby bust but overall the pandemic had less of an impact on fertility than anticipated. While the increase in White fertility was modest, it contradicts a lot of the demographic doom and gloom narrative. The slight increase in White fertility appears to be more among affluent Whites, and my personal observation has been of an increase in pregnant White women in affluent areas in California. This trend is likely due to remote work benefiting upscale Whites more than other groups, enabling mothers to stay at home with babies and those moving from cities to more family oriented suburban areas. An increase in older mothers having more children at the margin could also be a factor. Latinos were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and there was initially a dip in Latino fertility. The recent rise could be a recovery from the pandemic decline, plus the recent surge in foreign migration. Urbanization tends to suppress fertility, and the Asian and Black fertility decline, reflects that those two groups are heavily urbanized. [Robert Stark]
  • "TFR less than 1.0 by 2030." Hard not to get excited by this, given that almost everyone I care about has a TFR of at least 2.0. My grandkids are gonna have some space to spread out. Pretty much everyone I actively hate is currently having their TFR shredded, or will after a single generation of living in the West. Don't misunderstand this as me not caring about endless immigration. I hate it. But some of the examples from Rome's decline give me hope. The turbine of the west is fueled by childless eunuchs burning themselves out in offices, wild levels of immigration, and cheap energy. I see a future where none of the three are available. I expect, like Moses, I will not live to see the Promised Land. I'm at peace with that. Knowing it'll be there for my children's children is more than enough for me to hold the course. It's strange to watch a whole pile of kids, crawling over and under the pews, while the fertility rate craters. I suspect that the rates for white liberals are far worse than the numbers reflect. [Enoch Powell]
  • Goemans created a data set of every leader of every war-fighting country between 1816 and 1995, and coded each according to a tripartite system. Some leaders were democrats; some were dictators; and some were in between. According to Goemans, democrats tended to respond to the information delivered by the war and act accordingly; at the very worst, if they lost the war but their country still existed, they would get turned out of office and go on a book tour. Dictators, because they had total control of their domestic audience, could also end wars when they needed to. After the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was such a leader; he simply killed anyone who criticized him. The trouble, Goemans found, lay with the leaders who were neither democrats nor dictators: because they were repressive, they often met with bad ends, but because they were not repressive enough, they had to think about public opinion and whether it was turning on them. These leaders, Goemans found, would be tempted to “gamble for resurrection,” to continue prosecuting the war, often at greater and greater intensity, because anything short of victory could mean their own exile or death. [New Yorker]
  • For our oil investments, we know they’ll fluctuate, but we also know that financial crises tend to have little impact on real-world global demand. The inelasticity of global demand is very much a real thing, and depending on your timeframe, the dips are temporary. Here’s an illustration of what we’re talking about for the past 30 years. Even if demand falls short this year (not even assuming growth), supplies are still woefully short, which is why even in today’s moribund economic state, crude inventories are still declining. While the global economy and financial markets can lurch down, eventually they’ll crawl back up. We don't think this time will be any different. We also don’t think China’s reopening, US SPR releases tapering, OPEC+ reducing supply, US production growth stalling, Russian sanctions, and Russian production likely falling has even been priced in yet, but sure keep selling oil off on demand concerns. You do you.Again perspective. Own hard assets during these times when currencies are devaluing and inflation is rising. Own hard assets during these times of scarcity and supplies could be further falling. Own hard assets. [Open Insights
  • Both crypto and MLM claim to be revolutionary alternatives to basic societal institutions, Livelihood for MLM, and Money for crypto. Crypto claims to be an alternative to the world’s fiat currencies backed – and controlled – by governments and central banks, said to favor elites and insiders at the expense of everyone else. MLM claims to be direct selling, but mystically transformed into a disrupter of all other conventional businesses, able to dispense “extraordinary opportunity” to the public at large, formerly available only to financial elites. Like MLM which has received (paid) endorsements from Donald Trump, sports stars and preachers, crypto is hyped (for pay or personal profit) by Matt Damon, Elon Musk and Larry David. Both crypto and MLM claim to offer investors total “freedom” with explosive income but also freedom from the bounds of a world order that is locking out more and more people from prosperity. In both MLM and crypto, the more people who “believe,” the more value each person’s investment gains. Expansion itself is the source of value, without need of anything inherent or underlying. The main task of existing investors is to convince others to also believe. All believers are told they are the smart ones, “winners” who escaped and beat the old system. Those that don’t buy in are labelled fear-driven losers or defenders of the doomed old order. [Pyramid Scheme Alert]
  • It’s a process I’ve developed called surgical reading and it means that when I’m reading a non-fiction book, I focus on locating and removing the most valuable pieces of information from it quickly as possible. This allows me to read many different books across a single topic at once, so I can look at it from multiple perspectives. My goal is to quickly locate valuable knowledge and use the information I acquire in the real world to solve problems. There are a lot of hidden benefits to this approach. First, I can quickly get a sense of how interested I am in a book, and hence I spend more time reading things I’m actually interested in. When I’m not interested in a book I can drop it and move on to something else, knowing that if I return it will be for a reason. Reading shouldn’t be about checking titles off of a todo list, it should be an exploration of what fascinates you. [Brian Tobal]
  • The other instance is cheap-for-a-reason stocks that are simply too cheap. The reason is usually either a structural problem with the business or a controlling shareholder who is indifferent to the concerns of other owners. Sometimes you get both! There is a microcap stock out there that recently traded at a mid-single digit P/E and below net cash, because management had consistently been so awful to shareholders and had failed to sell the company when good opportunities presented themselves. On one of their last earnings calls before they stopped talking to investors entirely, one of the analyst questions was "has the board considered just resigning and letting someone else come in who knows what they're doing?" Is the prospect of eventually seeing the stock double and trade at 5x earnings plus cash on hand really worth being mad enough to dial in to a conference call and yell at management? [Byrne Hobart]
  • America in the present, is very fortunate to have been very sloppy and irresponsible in the distant past. The story of why the US has such a marvelous railroad network is one of over-optimism, bad math, market manipulation, and flagrant corruption. Railroads were about two thirds of the market in 1900, and other big chunks like banks, steel, and telegraphs were intimately tied to the railroad industry's fortunes. No industry has ever dominated the market so much, and no industry ever will again.4 Right now there are basically three publicly-traded railroads in the US, with a collective market cap of around $250bn, worth about as much as Coca-Cola. In 1900, they had a million employees, and total revenue that was three times Federal tax receipts. Today, they employ around 135,000 people, and total revenues for North American Class I railroads were $73bn in 2021. (Back to the soft drink comparisons, that's a bit smaller than PepsiCo's $79bn.) [Byrne Hobart]
  • My best theory, much reinforced after reading McMeekin's book, is that Roosevelt was a true communist (his right hand man Harry Hopkins, who lived in the White House during the war was a communist, and so were other key administration figures) and that Churchill was bought by the Soviets during the decade that he was out of power, so that during WWII was being extorted and dragged along with Communism by Roosevelt. (Besides being a drunk, Churchill was a gambler, and in debt.) "[T]here was something different about the fervor with which Hopkins promoted Soviet interests. Beginning with his Kremlin summit with Stalin in July 1941, Hopkins had come genuinely to prefer the Soviet way of doing things to that of American liberals and Socialists." At the Tehran conference, Stalin proposed shooting 50,000-100,000 German officers after the war. Churchill apparently thought that this was outrageous but Roosevelt was amused. Stalin's agents also had a hand in coming up with the genocidal, anti-German Morgenthau plan. The incredible thing about WWII is that Britain ostensibly went to war against Germany because of Poland, yet acquiesced to the ruthless Soviet occupation not only of Poland but the other countries that were tragically trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Again, you are forced to conclude that Germany was fighting three Communist countries at the same time - the USSR, the U.S., and Britain - even if only one was officially Communist. [CBS]
  • One of my favorite questions to ask impressive thinkers is: "Who is the most obscure person whose output you read all of?" I've never posed this question without getting a good answer. That is, impressive thinkers are pursuing the "consume everything from at least some people" strategy, and I should mimic that strategy. [Nate Meyvis]
  • When you observe an extreme outlier, you should usually vastly reduce your credence in the model with respect to which the event counts as an outlier. In crude terms: suppose that you're 95% sure that some model of the situation is right. If you observe an event that is a four-sigma outlier according to the model but much less likely if the model is wrong, then (by Bayes' theorem) your model is almost certainly wrong. So if you were making commitments on the basis of that model, you should stop doing so. In poker terms: if you're stuck that bad, it's much likelier than you thought that (i) you're on tilt, (ii) you're not as good as you think you are, (iii) you're not as good in that game as you think you are, (iv) you're getting cheated, or (v) something else is going on that you haven't even thought of. [Nate Meyvis]
  • I'm struck by how many subdomains of parenting have a single book I vastly prefer. (Two conjectures: I haven't read widely enough or the genre admits diverse styles many of which I strongly disprefer.) Some of my favorites: Precious Little Sleep, by Alexis Dubief, for sleep. When people ask for a single book recommendation, this is it. (Dubief is a finance whiz who happened to learn all about sleep for young people and then made a career out of it, much to the world's benefit.) The Happy Sleeper is also worth considering. Bringing up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman, for the importance of daily structure and emphasis on the fact that aspects of parenting can seem biologically necessary when they are in fact culturally contingent. (This book is controversial, and I'm not asserting that everything Druckerman says about French culture or good parenting is correct. For me it was a useful case study and a valuable tool for seeing Anglo dogmas about parenting for what they are.) [Nate Meyvis]
  • Yesterday, the world got a look inside Elon Musk’s phone. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is currently in litigation with Twitter and trying to back out of his deal to buy the platform and take it private. As part of the discovery process related to this lawsuit, Delaware’s Court of Chancery released hundreds of text messages and emails sent to and from Musk. The 151-page redacted document is a remarkable, voyeuristic record of a few months in the life of the world’s richest (and most overexposed) man and a rare unvarnished glimpse into the overlapping worlds of Silicon Valley, media, and politics. The texts are juicy, but not because they are lurid, particularly offensive, or offer up some scandalous Muskian master plan—quite the opposite. What is so illuminating about the Musk messages is just how unimpressive, unimaginative, and sycophantic the powerful men in Musk’s contacts appear to be. Whoever said there are no bad ideas in brainstorming never had access to Elon Musk’s phone. In no time, the texts were the central subject of discussion among tech workers and watchers. “The dominant reaction from all the threads I’m in is Everyone looks fucking dumb,” one former social-media executive, whom I’ve granted anonymity because they have relationships with many of the people in Musk’s texts, told me. “It’s been a general Is this really how business is done? There’s no real strategic thought or analysis. It’s just emotional and done without any real care for consequence.” [The Atlantic]
  • Any researcher interested in nuclear weapons in, say, 1935 could have looked at the information published up to that point and concluded that such weapons were possible. But penciling out all the technical problems that would have to be solved to be sure they were viable was daunting, and building only part of the project was worthless; a theoretical design for a bomb was pointless when the largest available samples of pure U-235 were barely visible to the human eye. Refining larger amounts would have been a ludicrously expensive idea without a ready blueprint for how to use them. (The entire Manhattan Project ended up requiring an investment equivalent to the value of the US auto industry at the time.) A megaproject parallelized a set of tasks that would never get done serially. [Byrne Hobart]

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