Ben Sasse on the space between Nebraska and Neverland
Fantastic conversation between Tyler Cowen and Ben Sasse. Sasse is everything a conservative ought be (and, consequently, the opposite of what Trump is): thoughtful but principled, well-read but humble and aware of the limits of academic reasoning, and interested in root causes, rather than surface problems.
Trump tweets and the efficient market hypothesis
One of the greatest features of the American government is that even the executive has incredibly limited influence, both on government and society. It is encouraging that, even with a strong personality like President Trump, that holds true – the executive cannot simply bully his corporate enemies into submission. Of course, there is likely still a chilling effect based on the perception that President Trump has real influence on market caps, but at least it is simply rooted in perception and not reality.
Net neutrality’s limited impact on market caps
If net neutrality doesn’t substantially impact stock prices, and stock prices are an imperfect but directionally correct indicator of a company’s actions, then does net neutrality really matter?
(via Tyler Cowen)
Identity politics and graduate economics
The empirical evidence that academia is far to the left of everyman views (at least in the US) are pretty clear. The debate tends to center around why – some on the left, for example, might argue that conservatives are just less intelligent (and thus would not cut it in academia – anecdotally, by the way, some of my conservative friends will argue that academia is a terrible occupation, and “smart people” will prefer to go into the private sector where they can both think for a living and get paid and not have to deal with tenure considerations), or that smart conservatives come to academia and learn the “truth,” becoming more liberal. But of course, there’s an intermediate hypothesis between “conservatives don’t try to enter the funnel of academia” or “conservatives who enter the funnel of academia become liberal” – perhaps conservatives try to enter the funnel, but are rejected, and the only ones who make it through either have weak enough convictions such that they are considered palatable (and therefore do become more liberal once they are surrounded by those with strong convictions) or enter in fields where ideological leanings matter less (e.g., science or math).
This article is not an empirical study, so it should not convince you that this third hypothesis is the state of the world – it is merely a set of anecdotes that show you how it could be the state of the world.
National-security law professors’ takes on the Trump leaks
There are two issues with reporting on the recent Trump intelligence leaks. First, they tend to be from constant critics of the administration, for whom “Every move, every tweet is a threat to democracy, an affront to humanity, and surely will lead to the end of life as we know it.” Second, and just as importantly, most journalists covering the story appear to know very little about how either executive law or national-security law works, and seem to selectively give passes when it suits their agenda (e.g., for the past four months, the intelligence community, after years of being excoriated as clandestine thugs threatening rule of law, are now unimpeachable heroes who should be deferred to without question).
Jack Goldsmith’s Lawfare blog has skirted both of these issues. Goldsmith, “widely considered one of the brightest stars in the conservative legal firmament,” worked in the Bush DOJ and teaches at Harvard Law. Since he is both fairly balanced and understands security law, Lawfare tends to be the best reporting on these kinds of issues (as it was during the Obama administration).
Anyway, this is a fantastic synthesis of:
(1) what happened
(2) why it is not illegal
(3) why it still matters: (a) it threatens sources and methods, both from the US and allies; (b) it threatens US alliances and intelligence-sharing agreements; © it again raises questions of how disproportionately Trump trusts Russia; and (d) it raises broader questions about how impactful Trump’s rash actions may have on world security.
Though this might beg the question as to why it matters; after all, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because you know, the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
Fingerprint-based authentication could be hacked up to 65% of the time
It is important not to overstate these findings:
(1) These are not real-world tests
(2) Fingerprint scanners can presumably get better over time
However, there are two big implications for fingerprints here. First, fingerprints are not inherently more secure than any other standard form of authentication (e.g., passwords). Second, fingerprints are inherently worse in one respect not mentioned here – you cannot change your fingerprint if it is compromised. What happens when there are services that require fingerprint authentication, and your fingerprint is stolen? The only reason you might not worry about this second point is if you believed that the first were not true (i.e., if you believed fingerprints were unhackable). This seems patently wrong.
Fingerprints are more convenient than other methods, and for things like unlocking your phone (assuming your banking app has an actual password), it is probably fine. For anything that requires actual security, though, biometrics are a terrible idea.