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Get a weekly roundup of the best Substack posts, by hacker news affinity:

Top posts of the month

By hacker news affinity
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betonit 317 HN points 26 Jul 22
“Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution.” That’s probably the most famous sentence that Nobel laureate Robert Lucas ever said. He immediately added:
betonit 296 HN points 13 Jul 22
Recently, I got a new book idea. After soliciting title ideas, I really liked Nathan Goodman’s Unbeatable, to which I added the subtitle The Brutally Honest Case for Free Markets. Before long, I was so jazzed about the idea - and the sales potential - that I decided to rearrange my queue to try writing
betonit 285 HN points 21 Jul 22
When someone hates all of your work, it is psychologically easy to dismiss their criticism. You can tell yourself, “They have it out for me,” or “They’re impossible to please,” or “They’re dogmatic fools,” or “They hate me because I’m beautiful.” How, though, is one to cope with the critic who gives some of your work glowing reviews, while scoffing at much of the rest?
betonit 280 HN points 08 Aug 22
Suppose you want to provoke outrage about X. The media’s standard recipe is simple: Step 1: Locate the most outrageous new example of X on Earth. Step 2: Show everyone. To say that this recipe is “prone to abuse” is a gross understatement. This recipe
betonit 248 HN points 03 Aug 22
“Go woke, go broke” runs the slogan, and there are multiple Twitter accounts that eagerly publicize alleged examples of leftist business leaders hurting their own companies. The Beckerian logic is straightforward: Businesses that care about ideology
betonit 216 HN points 12 Jul 22
Libertarians are no doubt dismayed by the FDA’s recent ban on Juul vaping products (although the current status of the ban is unclear) and the news that the Biden administration is planning to mandate lower nicotine levels in cigarettes. But libertarians shouldn’t be the only ones opposed to state-enforced nicotine restrictions.
betonit 195 HN points 09 Aug 22
“Air travel is hell” is poetry, but every air traveler can relate to the poem. To be an air traveler is to be chastised, checked, re-checked, queued, re-queued, examined, insulted, questioned, and re-questioned. When you fly, you are treated like a child, a criminal, an idiot, a malingerer, a delinquent, a smuggler, a captive, and of course a terrorist. When was the last time you heard
betonit 190 HN points 04 Aug 22
As promised, here’s video of me performing at New York City’s Comedy Cellar for New Joke Night! Huge added bonus: Famed comedian Andy Haynes immediately improvises some hilarious jokes about me. Just watch to the end. My funniness is debatable, but his is not.
betonit 185 HN points 19 Jul 22
Under open borders, where would people go? Yes, population will heavily flow from the Third World to the First. But what about migration within the First World? Will almost all First Worlders stay in their country of birth? Or will they try their luck elsewhere in the First World? Furthermore, when people move to the First World, where exactly will they go? How many will choose the U.S. versus the E.U. versus Canada or the U.K. or Australia or Japan?
betonit 163 HN points 27 Jul 22
Even my biggest fans are often dismayed by my Szaszian skepticism of psychiatry. How can I be so at odds with the science? Of late, however, mainstream science journalism suddenly sounds Szaszian. Nature just published Moncrieff et al.’s major study,
betonit 163 HN points 18 Jul 22
Economists have long known that worker compensation is “compressed.” Firms overpay their worst workers, and underpay their best workers. The problem is especially severe in the public sector, free of a hard budget constraint. But compression is everywhere. Compression is the fundamental reason
betonit 158 HN points 15 Jul 22
Email from a reader, who prefers to remain anonymous. Hi Bryan, I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to Sicily. It looks like you have a wonderful family and I think I can say that your Selfish Reasons book played a role in my decision to have a second child (but it might well be post-hoc rationalization). I grew up in Sicily, actually in one of its poorest and most backwards areas. I think
betonit 89 HN points 20 Jul 22
Speaking of parties and imagination, this summer I am bringing Capla-Con back to Virginia after a three-year hiatus. Capla-Con is a two-day festival of nerdity at my home in Northern Virginia for all my friends and well-wishers, this August 13 and 14. Noon-midnight both days, open house format.
betonit 74 HN points 22 Jul 22
I haven’t been in the tri-state area since COVID, but next week, I return in force. Two big events: July 28-August 2, I’ll be speaking at Princeton University for the John Locke Institute’s summer school. I’ll be speaking on education, immigration, housing, and
betonit 68 HN points 05 Aug 22
The first permanent structures that once were obstinately referred to as malja’ (shelters) are now called byut (homes). Faced with a density and rates of overcrowding higher than overpopulated cities like Mumbai and Kolkata in India, inhabitants not only moved outside, but also breached camp rules. They split up the ‘indivisible’ units among family components. Over the years, houses have changed owners, been sold and bought. Recently, shelters have also been rented to Iraqi refugees, Egyptian labourers, and other low-income immigrants who can afford only the relatively cheaper rents of the camp. After several changes of tenant, some units have lost any memory of the original owner, and real estate speculation has become one of the most tangible marks of refugee reappropriation dynamics. The vertical expansion of buildings also reached unpredictable levels. Fifteen years ago, a second floor on a building was permitted only in special cases. However, the DPA administration has turned out to be quite flexible not only on the renting, selling and buying of housing units but also about the infringement of spatial norms. Today, for example, it is possible to build two additional floors (of less than 6 metres in height) on commercial buildings, and obtain authorisation to add one floor to a housing unit – though the request has to go through a specific official route before being issued. As a result of this, almost every unit in the camp has now a second floor, and three- and four-floor buildings are increasing.
betonit 52 HN points 14 Jul 22
I just did a new podcast with Aaron Olson on the late great Thomas Szasz. Aaron is well-versed in my notorious article, “The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness” (Rationality and Society, 2006). After the article was accepted, but prior to its publication, I actually refrained from publicizing it due to lingering fear of cancellation!
betonit 20 HN points 25 Jul 22
Researching and writing The Case Against Education did much to dull my enthusiasm for private schooling. Part of the reason was pure theory: If most education is socially wasteful signaling, private spending doesn’t offset government inefficiency. It amplifies it.
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betonit 2 HN points 11 Jul 22
I came to the University of Palermo to teach a quick version of my Economics of Immigration course. Here’s what I learned about migration during my time in Italy: Sicily’s population has been flat for the last 30 years. The countryside often looks utterly empty. After one wrong turn, we lost sight of not only other cars, but any sign of human habitation for miles around. Italy’s foreign-born population share is
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