Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to James Caan, 73.

Yes, good stuff:

1. How political science should lobby, by Jennifer Victor.

2. Wait -- you mean goofy-sounding research may actually be useful? Carl Zimmer.

3. Gershom Gorenberg on Obama's speech in Jerusalem.

4. Irin Carmon on Justice Ginsburg, abortion, and marriage.

5. And E.J. Graff on marriage.


  1. Graff's piece about the shift in attitudes toward gay issues got me thinking about how Andrew Sullivan has been fighting the good fight for years, long before it was cool to do so. Per our conversation the other day about the future of the GOP, I think Sullivan's approach to LGBT issues is pretty much a template for what the right will look like in 50 years time.

    Look, we can talk Ayn Rand til the cows come home, but there's just no way the developed west isn't going to be socialism-lite for our lifetimes and several thereafter. The political temptation for government activity is way too great, and frankly the economy is too complicated to leave it unfettered (see, for example, the disappointment of Mr. Market's track record in new drug development, among a million others).

    What a conservative can do though, is bring a conservative attitude into the crazy patchwork quilt of American life. Specifically, Sullivan: you hate me cause I'm gay? Well, screw you, here's why you're wrong. That attitude is so incredibly right - in every respect - and preferable to the victim mentality many folks perceive (negatively) coming from the left.

    Funny to think: Andrew Sullivan as iconic conservative. I suspect it very well may come to pass.

    1. Honest question: as far as I can tell, everyone in the world except for (some) US conservatives perceives a major, significant difference between socialism and what is generally called a "mixed" economy. The question is: do y'all really not see that, or is there something that you do see that the rest of the world doesn't?

    2. Swedish wonderblogger Tino Sanandaji produced this great post on First-World government spending convergence:


      Socialism is a total and pathetic loser, so it's nice that most governments only pay it lip service. But conservatives are not the only ones who are confused about the relative sizes or trends of governments. Sweden is (in many ways) more pro-market than the US, but not many libs have a clue.

    3. I'm probably the last person to speak for "what conservatives think", but since you ask...there's certainly a difference between socialism and the mixed Western economies; maybe "socialism-lite" is unnecessarily pejorative.

      For 'honest' conservatives, perhaps overwrought ideology in this area is just resistance, or keeping a lid on the liteness of the inevitable socialism, e.g. Rand Paul admitting he believes in the Federal Government, just a $2.5 T Federal Government (and not $3.8 T). Though I admit when you hear Marco Rubio prattle on about the good old fashioned can-do American attitude exhibited by his Grandpa on Medicare or he with his federally-subsidized student loans, you do have to wonder...

      ...btw hope your Seder was a good one; as a Gentile I've only had the privilege of attending a couple, but I greatly enjoyed myself and admired the relative closeness of the holiday to its historic origins. This is no minor thing for a religion, I think as I realize that my mall has now pimped out the Easter Bunny, having long ago appropriated Santa. If there's another Christian holiday to be bastardized, I'm sure they'll find a way.

    4. Though I admit when you hear Marco Rubio prattle on about the good old fashioned can-do American attitude exhibited by his Grandpa on Medicare or he with his federally-subsidized student loans, you do have to wonder...

      His grandfather was forced to pay into the Medicare system when younger just as Rubio was forced to pay into the loan system when older. They had no choice in the matter, so implying that they are hypocritical or clueless by using the services that they wouldn't have chosen to pay for in the first place is off the mark.

      It would be like accusing a self-described Communist in America of hypocrisy because he has a job and buys most of his goods from corporations. He has no choice, so praise for a system that is counter-capitalist is not hypocrisy, etc..

  2. Quoting Jennifer Victor:

    1.) congress should not be making judgments about the value of scientific endeavors; this is a slippery slope, or 2.) political science research is worthwhile and important.

    To induce Congress to continue paying her to play at University, she and her allies are going to:
    1)argue that Congress should keep its hands off her Medicare and
    2)argue to Congress that her playtime is super useful and worthy of tax dollars from Congress.

    "Science" is just another interest group now. It's a drinking club. Defund it so that these smart people will find useful work.

  3. see, for example, the disappointment of Mr. Market's track record in new drug development, among a million others).

    Which countries develop the most drugs? The most or least market-oriented?

    1. Thanks for taking up this point, because I think I left it unclarified: you're right, we've developed the most drugs, the question is: does the process give us the ones we want?

      Classic illustration - in the early 50s, the treatment of mental health was revolutionized by the introduction of one of history's great miracle drugs, chlorpromazine. Chlorpromazine single-handedly cleared out the institutions and allowed folks with psychiatric conditions to once again live normal lives. To your point, America has produced many many later-generation anti-psychotics since chlorpromazine.

      You know what, though? All those later meds are more or less tweaks of chlorpromazine. Some solve this side effect, others tweak that aspect of psychosis, but 60 years later we're still waiting for the next leap forward. Some would argue that none of these later meds are, overall, an improvement on chlorpromazine.

      Which getting back to Mr. Market, we know why this happens: its expensive as hell to bring a new drug to market, and so it is far more cost-effective to tweak - starting with chlorpromazine - than to swing for the fences with a novel compound.

      We may want that swinging for the fences, but the market won't reward it. As is so often the case.

    2. The medical researchers (public and private) that I've read, heard, and spoken to claim that they're beating their heads against a wall. The biggest problem is that seeking useful new compounds is largely fruitless. Alterations to existing compounds can be incredibly useful by obviating the use of needles, etc..

      There are many scientists (Reproducibility Project, Science Exchange e.g.) that are trying to drag science into the present and alter its bad incentive structures. Maybe these institutions can improve drug industry outputs, but it's not as if the global public/private machine of medical discovery is intentionally choosing to be irritatingly slow.


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