Podcast Episode #1: Arnold Kling – A complexity thread in his thinking?

For my first podcast episode, I had the opportunity to interview Arnold Kling. I aimed to discuss whether Arnold sees a complexity thinking thread running through his work. We covered a lot of topics, including the how to think about economic activity, a critique of mainstream Economics, VC & startups, Arnold’s 3-axis model for political discourse, BLM & racism, post-modernism in universities, cultural evolution, and even Israeli dance.

I highly recommend you dig into Arnold’s work. Be sure to check out Arnold’s blog and his multiple appearances on Econtalk. For a distilled presentation of his ideas on economics and political dialogue, check out 2 of his concise books: Specialization and Trade and The Three Languages of Politics.

For context on my own views on complexity & economics, check out a previous blog post critiquing complexity economics from a Hayekian epistemological humbleness position.

You can download the podcast here, and find the Youtube video below.

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Joethink Substack newsletter: coming soon

I recently launched a Substack Newletter with a pledge of what I plan to write about. NB: some of these will never get written, but there the kind of topics I’d love to spend hours talking about.

I said that I want to knock off larger themes and areas that I’ve been thinking about, include some interesting articles or content I’ve come across, and add in the occasional book review.

Here are some of the larger posts I’ve got on the backburner:

-Complexity, complex adaptive systems, path dependence, information theory. That’s life.

-Know the data: any form of discussion requires knowing something about the underlying behaviour of the thing being studied. This is the most underplayed problem with discussion today.

-Just a straight-up raw comparison table a la Taleb: Greek academic top down vs Roman tinkering, practical, tort law. Across the board from stats to Crossfit to AI.

-Open-ended and decentralized knowledge-sharing: VCs, entrepreneurs, information. Exploring the state-space.

-Knowing things: forming opinions in an age of unlimited information, broken media, partisan science. Bayesian updating and epistemology. Don’t trust the bell curve. Theory and practice.

-Berlin: a detailed description. Framing Berlin in a way that outsiders can understand it. Meta-learning: you can port this model onto other places and it still works.

-US great migration & black life outcomes. Viewing African-Americans as internal ‘immigrants’ to situate their situation (Angle: Path-dependence, Complex Adaptive Systems and History).

-Economics as an information search: a hack rethink of economics as a combination of Arnold Kling’s specialization and trade, information theory, Merhling’s Money View, VC/Financial cycles a la Perez/Janeway/Minsky.

-Complexity for dummies: A selected literary review. How you too can become complex. The MOOC, De Deo on information theory and Bayesian Reasoning, La Land evolution, a few of the Jim Rutt interviews, ABMs, CAS.

-General Physical Preparedness: what to train for which event. Very good little analogy for unsolvable multivariate optimization and for developing various indexes to do so. And then list a bunch of indexes elsewhere.

A series of book reviews: Basically, I want to take books as jumping off points to do creative commentary:

1) Jewish Century: Structured as a personal letter to the author about why this book meant something to me.

2) What the F is wrong with Sapiens. Selected quotes from Harari’s Sapiens just getting one-liner’d by me.

3) White Shift (Eric Kaufman): It’s thesis and what it means for us.

Armchair anthropology: 3 types of East Germans in 2020

In response to a Marginal Revolution post on the economic divide between East and West Germany, I posted my description of 3 archetypal East Germans that I encountered in my 8 years in Berlin. My experience is that foreigners don’t understand this group whatsover. It’s meant to be light-hearted and absolutely non-offensive, and have some truth to it, from someone living in Berlin across the East/West societal divide – via marriage, work and fußball. Forgive the over-generalizations – I am just painting a picture for those with no idea about the East.

1) The urban hard-left variety (young and old) in places like Berlin & Leipzig who were anti-the DDR regime in the late 80’s (if they were old enough) but nonetheless remain ‘socialists’ and remain very anti-US and anti-commercialism. They likely vote for Die Linke and hate AFD and even CDU. Mostly are completely pro-immigration (but still critical of unintegrated ie Turks maybe). They may resent West German arrogance and having taken jobs and gentrified the urban centers they grew up in.


2) Smaller town or suburban working class types: married or kids by 24, play on their local football club along with all of their friends, work 7-15 or at an ausbildung (3 year traineeship) level office job 9-5. Vacation on the Ostsee much more so than Mallorca with the West Germans. Rule-abiding, enjoying their lives, prioritize family and their local area (where they grew up), much more than the typical West German (excluding certain regions like Bavaria etc). Have zero West German friends / contacts except maybe at work in Berlin. They probably vote mixed, Die Linke / CDU and some for AFD. Not really anti-immigrant, just unexposed to many foreigners except if they live in proximity to urban centers (ie Berlin); in which case typical jokes about Turks.
A similar type of this group can be found all over West Germany as well.


3) The further East, right-wing AFD type voter (with the typical stereotype description). Shaved head, ringed earrings, they pump a lot of iron, pink haired women with face piercings (cheek, lip), tons of tattoos.
They work 7-15 jobs, often manual labour, along with their entire social network. Probably strongly anti-immigrant (especially Muslim and black), and strongly resent paying anything for them. Merkel scared them all off taking in 1 million Syrians.

Summing Up:

Also one finds an intermixing of types 2 and 3 all over the former East outside or really urban big centers where type 1 lives alongside West Germans (here I am talking Berlin, Leipzig) who have arrived and gentrified. Groups 2 and 3 love fishing. ALL of these groups will identify strongly as East German. Most West Germans (including those living in Berlin!!) will have had 0 exposure or interaction with East Germans and in fact have no awareness of them at all.

Aborted Medium Post on David Frum vs Steve Bannon Munk Talk

I was starting to to write a Medium post but abandoned it. Here’s the rough text. It’s underlying message is an attack on what I term the soft-center vis a vis Frum, which includes the mainstream political class spanning from Hillary to Bush Jr, and of course Joe Biden. You’ll find some version of this group in every Western country.

Munk Debate: Frum ws Bannon and everything wrong with soft-center elites

Last Friday, the University of Toronto Munk Center hosted its annual Munk Debate, titled The Rise of Populism. The debate featured Steve Bannon, former Chief Strategist of President Trump, and Atlantic Magazine Senior editor David Frum.

The debate was centered around a prediction: what would be the future of politics- populism or liberalism?

The post-mortem upfront

Frum himself provided an analysis of the debate in The Atlantic, which is worth reading in conjunction with watching at least a portion of the debate. Frum’s views, demeanor and most importantly inability to see any wrongdoing in permanent political classes (especially Bush Jr, but even Obama or Hillary which would be strange as a Republican-leaning journalist if not for Trump derangement syndrome) is probably the best living embodiment from the Republican or center-right political elite which has managed to encrust itself onto political systems throughout the Western world.

Frum de-dumm dumm

As the debate began, something odd struck me. Frum, a lifelong Republican and former speech writer for President George W Bush, presented himself as the voice of reason and was received like a Clinton democrat representative by the mostly upper-middle class Toronto audience, who were happy to applaud along with pretty much anything he said. Throughout the debate, I couldn’t help but think that if Bannon were somehow speaking anonymously, he would probably have been taken to be a Bernie Saunders strategist and the audience might have applauded him against the crony-capitalist cheerleader Frum.

I was incredulous to see the degree to which Frum embodies the almost parodied ‘elite’ persona. He questioned whether the lower-classes can understand things or vote in their own interests. One highlight was his statement “Unlike Trump, Bush was someone who did what he said he would do”. Frum also claimed that any criticism of Soros is de facto anti-semitism- the oldest play in the book. I think a lot of people don’t even now Soros is Jewish to be honest.