A couple years ago, Mark Perry published a chart showing the change in prices of goods and services over time.

The chart has become something like a Rorschach test, where people magically interpret it as confirmation of what they already believe. Globalists point out the low-cost benefits of outsourced manufacturing; Libertarians blame government intervention for price increases in healthcare and education; Socialists see the same price gains and attribute it to Baumol’s Cost Disease, because they believe that human labor confers some irreproachable value regardless of productivity.

I was in Cuba X years ago, where X is some number greater than the statute of limitations for OFAC violations. What struck me was how closely the Cuban economy mirrors that of the US. And by “mirror”, I mean everything is the exact opposite.

In Cuba, health care and education are Free, and toys and food are expensive. Well technically toys and food are free too, if you don’t want very much. Every Cuban receives a ration book that entitles them to five eggs a month and, for those with children, three toys a year. If you want more than that, you pay up on the black market.

(Don’t @ me — Cuba trumps the US in terms of literacy rate, life expectancy, and infant mortality.)

Toys in Cuba

Turns out everyone is absolutely right about that inflation chart. Globalization has indeed made manufactured goods dirt cheap in the US. A quick way to similarly reduce health care and education costs might be to send students and patients offshore, like the Mariel boatlift in reverse. As for Libertarian complaints of regulatory capture — if we rationed toys the way we ration physicians and college diplomas, toys would be expensive too. But the Socialists are smartest of them all. Baumol was right — Healthcare and education are overpriced because the opportunity cost of labor is high.

Cuba gets it. By running an authoritarian commie state, they don’t waste human resources on politics and media and bankers and other parasites. That frees up a lot of manpower for people to become doctors.

In Capitalism’s defense, well, free-market capitalism has never really been tried.


As usual, I waited until the last possible minute to do my taxes. I was thinking about not doing them at all, cuz you know, #Resist.

No, that’s just an excuse. Taxes are a pain in the ass. I do mine by hand because I’m ethically opposed to paying for tax preparation software. Every other civilized nation provides taxpayers with a prefilled tax filing, yet here in the US we put our citizens through needless agony because H&R Block and Intuit lobbied to make taxes as onerous as possible. Thanks to TurboTax, Congress is about to permanently ban the IRS from offering free online tax filing.

I hate rent-seekers. That’s why I get all my legal advice from the internet and buy prescription drugs straight off the dark web.

Speaking of rent-seekers — We issue 85,000 H1-B visas a year and 0% go to physicians. Why? Because the American Medical Association lobbies to make it so. Even if a foreign doctor does find her way into the US, she still has to pass three separate Board exams, get certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign-Trained Medical Graduates, undergo a three-to-five year residency program, and then take a third licensing test. That’s why we end up with so many immigrant doctors working as cab drivers.

As an occasional consumer of medical services, part of me wants to lower costs by importing lots of foreign doctors. On the other hand, my brother just embarked on his first year as an attending physician after twelve years of training and residency. He’s starting his career in his thirties with over six figures in student debt. After taxes and rent, he’ll be lucky to have his loans paid off by the time his kids go to college. This is the norm for medicine.

Maybe the rent-seekers at TurboTax also have bills to pay and children to feed.

So I don’t begrudge anyone their protectionism; I just want some for myself.

Computer programmers need supply restrictions too! Bad code can make airplanes fall out of the sky and unconscious biases persist in AI, it shouldn’t be left to just anybody.

For decades, industry employers pushed a false narrative about impending engineer shortages to secure a flood of H1-B workers. Now we have STEM workers rotting in the fields because there aren’t enough engineering jobs that pay a living wage. IEEE published some lukewarm refutations of the STEM shortage, but what they really should have done is lobby for occupational licensing. Like, no one should be able to write a line of code without a PhD and certification from IEEE. Anyone who does so is practicing code without a license. Code is law, man, and should be regulated as such.

Everyone’s a NIMBY in their own backyard 😀

Older Fathers

I don’t trust science anymore. Especially not when it’s presented by the New York Times.

Here’s an article about The Risks to Babies of Older Fathers, and I instantly thought of my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Ariel Procaccia’s recent post about the need to teach statistics to scientists. See, anyone who has observed the slightest amount of animal husbandry knows that this NYTimes article is bullshit. Stud animals are bred until they can’t get it up anymore; in fact breeders prefer older males so they can avoid propagating animals that develop health problems later on.

I feel like a lot of our misconceptions regarding genetics and the heritability of traits could be totally avoided if more journalists had participated in 4-H.

Anyway, back to this research regarding the Association of Paternal age with Perinatal Outcomes in the United States. It’s published in the BMJ, a reputable British medical journal. The authors are physicians and professors at Stanford, an institution more infallible than the Pope. The study claims a sample size of 40.5 million births — that’s a lot!

Of the 40.5 million births, only 1.2 million (about 3%) had fathers over the age of 45. Out of that 3%, 61% of the babies had mothers over the age of 30. Of the 97% of babies with fathers under the age of 45, only 14.5% had mothers over the age of 30. So this is in fact a relatively small population with a skewed maternal age distribution.

The study claims to adjust for maternal age. The “adjustment” is a stratification of mothers into three groups: <25, 25-34, and >34. The <25 bucket has wide error bars, because there are very few babies born with young mothers and old fathers. The 25-34 and >34 buckets do show an association between adverse births and paternal age, but the buckets themselves are ridiculous. There’s a huge difference between a 25-year-old and a 34-year-old mother, and a massive difference between a 34-year-old and a 54-year-old (the oldest mother used in this study!). Older fathers are more likely to pair with older mates, so by lumping the mothers into such wide groups, the study does the exact opposite of adjusting for maternal age.

In conclusion, The Risk To Babies of Older Fathers is that their mothers tend to be old too. #FakeScience

The thing is, I would love for the NYTimes article to be true. Biological differences are the root cause of so much gender inequality in the workplace, and I honestly think the world would be a better place if men succumbed to the same biological clock as women. Of course by “better place” I mean, A Better Place For Me. Isn’t that what equality is all about?

Cuckolded by Cats

Signing up for a NextDoor account should be a prerequisite to moving into any new neighborhood. People need to learn what insufferable shits their future neighbors are before throwing down a deposit.

The local cat lady coalition is building a new homeless shelter. For cats.

My mother often complains about stray cats on her property. She says that back in her day, any critter that wasn’t tied down or locked up would be summarily thrown in a stewpot. Then again, she grew up during Chairman Mao’s Famine. No need for feral cat shelters back then, I bet.

The only thing cats have going for them is their supernormal resemblance to human infants. Their innocent wide eyes, their mewling cries, their unrelenting selfishness. By acting like human babies, cats trick childless women into adopting them as their own.

This is exactly what a cuckoo bird does. A cuckoo is known as a brood parasite; it relies on other species to raise its young. The female cuckoo lays eggs that mimic the host’s eggs, and when they hatch, the baby cuckoos grow faster and cry louder than the host’s babies.


In the wild, only 30% of baby songbirds survive to adulthood, so parents are motivated to feed the strongest birdlings first. The baby cuckoo quickly outgrows its adoptive siblings and pushes them out to die.

So it is with cats. I’m not ready to settle down yet, you think. I’ll adopt a kitten for companionship. Just one won’t hurt. Before you know it, you’re spending the next two decades paying for Fluffy’s food and heartworm meds, attending to her every meow. Maybe cat ownership isn’t the result of declining birthrates, but the cause of it.

Source: UK pet food manufacturer’s association and Office for National statistics (couldn’t find any US data)

The data checks out.

This is What Meritocracy Looks Like

As a Stanford alum, I feel obliged to defend my alma mater in light of the recent college admissions scandal. Yesterday, 50 people were charged in a racketeering conspiracy where wealthy parents paid million-dollar bribes to get their kids into fancy schools.

People are pissed because the revelation squashes any notion of college meritocracy. But…does it really? These backdoor students are, quite arguably, the very embodiment of what it means to be an Ivy League admit. Not only did the parents bribe their way around the admissions process, they deducted the bribes as charitable contributions. In doing so, these kids demonstrated the most important life skill of all: The ability to work the system.

Exploiting the system is what American meritocracy is all about! Examples abound on Wall Street and in DC, and this is even true in Silicon Valley. The Y-Combinator application specifically asks founders to describe a non-computer system they have successfully hacked. One notable YC founder wrote about his adventures in shoplifting, and his company went on to receive $72 million in funding. Incidentally, this guy is a graduate of both Yale and Stanford Law School.

So here’s what’s gonna happen to the parents accused of exchanging bribes for admissions. They’ll hire some white-shoe law firm, settle without admission of wrongdoing, and the students will go on to graduate with inflated GPAs and privilege intact. The best measure of merit is money.

(Don’t tell the plebes though. We need to keep them busy fighting for scholastic aptitude scraps so they won’t notice while the privileged elite pillage the world.)

Edit (14-March 2019): Here are some fun Ivy League admission stats. Between 10 and 15% of admitted students are recruited athletes, and up to 25% are legacy admits. I don’t see what all the bribery brouhaha is about — undeserving rich kids stealing spots from other undeserving rich kids.