We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Approaching the event horizon

The black hole at the heart of the Out campaign is this. After all those years of demanding this referendum, they can’t agree on what the UK would look like if it chose to self-eject from the European Union.

– Andrew Rawnsley writing in the Observer.

For a real black hole, the event horizon is the boundary from within which nothing, not even light, can ever escape. As Wikipedia puts it “Once a particle is inside the horizon, moving into the hole is as inevitable as moving forward in time.”

The black hole at the heart of the
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Piketty and the Shoe Event Horizon

In Douglas Adams famous non-fiction series on galactic economic history, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, we are presented with a description of the tragedy of the planet Frogstar B.

On Frogstar B, for a time shoe production increased faster than the rate of overall economic growth. As a result, with time, shoe production became a larger and larger fraction of the economy, until finally the Shoe Event Horizon was hit, at which point nothing but shoes could be manufactured, and lacking any other goods or services, their civilization collapsed.

Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” describes a similar
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Upcoming events in commercial space

The Rocket Racing League will be doing flight demos of the Rocket Racer in Oshkosh later this month, between July 28th and Aug 3rd.

The RRL team has been working overtime to meet its goals for demonstration flights planned for three days during the convention. The flights, planned for July 29, August 1 and August 2, use aircraft based on Velocity Aircraft homebuilt canard designs. It marks the first public flights of these aircraft, which were first introduced in April.

I have heard (unconfirmed) as many as three RRL members may have their racers present. The development work on
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Well, I dunno

The pro-Remain Daily Mirror has an odd choice for its front page:

Update: Mr Ed has suggested the following caption:


I know what the Mirror is trying to say, but what with “REMAIN” being in capitals and larger type, the instant impression that it gives to me is that REMAIN is a deep dark hole sucking the hapless voter inwards to destruction. A valiant effort by the Leave mole in the Mirror graphics department, but judging by the final polls, it may not be enough. But don’t let the polls cause
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Samizdata quote of the day

So many economists today spend more and more time mastering higher-level mathematics and econometric techniques that they simply never master basic microeconomics. These economists (from my reading of him, I judge Piketty to be among them) take their fluency in statistics and their skill at quantitative-data gathering for being a fluency in, and skill at doing, economics. They are mistaken. And while their error is too-often masked to the general public by their formal credentials as professional economists, their error is never hidden from genuinely skilled economists such as Deirdre McCloskey.

– Don Boudreaux, of Cafe Hayek. The whole item
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The Financial Times does what?

Simon Gibbs has an excellent article pointing out a ‘media worthy’ story that the media probably will not cover. Short version: the 2014 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year award has gone to a book ripped into tiny bleeding shreds previously in… the Financial Times.

And lets not forget Piketty and the Shoe Event Horizon!

A Pikettian Graph

Part of the problem with the Pikettian “Investment Event Horizon”, which I articulated in an earlier post, is the idea that we can blindly presume that a statistical trend will continue forever without carefully considering whether the extrapolation is at all plausible.

In that spirit, a friend of mine analyzed the growth of smartphone screens, which began a few years ago at around a diagonal measurement of 3 inches, then moved to 4 inches, and have recently been going past 5 inches. He has demonstrated, by extrapolation, that by the year 2034 smart phones will be 80 inches across!

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Metzger on Piketty illustrates Schlichter on a priorism

If you are ever puzzled by the phrases “a priori” or “a priorism”, in connection in particular with the writings of Ludwig von Mises, and would appreciate becoming less puzzled, then let me now recommend to you a recent essay by Detlev Schlichter entitled The a priori method in economics – In defence of Ludwig von Mises.

Perry Metzger’s recent demolition job, here at Samizdata, of Thomas Piketty, made me think of Schlichter’s essay. What Perry Metzger was giving us was surely a perfect example of the a priori way of thinking about economic events and economic evidence.

Economic events,
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Piketty’s Data, Krugman’s Shame

An addendum to the earlier post on Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”:

As was originally pointed out yesterday by Alisa, the Financial Times attempted to verify the data presented by Piketty in his book, and failed to be able to reproduce it.

They found that the data, as presented, contained (to say the least) substantial inaccuracies. More bluntly, if the correct figures from the sources he cites are used, and the calculations are performed correctly, the effects he claims to describe vanish entirely.

The Financial Times has now published two articles on the subject, but I would prefer
…continue Piketty’s Data, Krugman’s Shame

Ruminations on the Singularity

Glenn Reynolds recently interviewed Ray Kurzweil, the futurist thinker who has recently come out with a new book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. I first came into contact with Kurzweil’s ideas when I read his earlier book, The Age of Spiritual Machines. In this, he expounds his idea of the Law of Accelerating returns, which holds that technological progress grows at an exponential rate.

If you are not familiar with the idea of the Singularity, the Wikepedia page is a good place to start.

It must be emphasised that the ideas and predictions made by Singularity enthusiasts
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The King can do no wrong

George Archer-Shee died at nineteen, in what might almost be called a natural death for a young British man of his class at that time – he was killed in the First Battle of Ypres. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate but he has no known grave.

He shared the manner of his death with thousands of others, but, quite against his own wishes, his short life before that had taken an unusual turn. At the time of his death he had been famous for six years.

It all started in 1908 when George Archer-Shee was thirteen and
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Without the vaccine, what would countries have done?

(A repeat of a comment I posted to a Facebook page. I have added a fresh comment at the bottom of this article.)

A troubling thought for many is what would the present – and other – governments have done without a credible vaccine? (I leave aside the specifics of the Pfizer/Oxford etc outcomes for the moment.) Suppose nothing was on the horizon. What, to take the UK example, would Mr Johnson and his colleagues have done in this situation? Lockdowns for a further six months, then a pinch of liberty in mid-summer in time for Ascot, Wimbledon and Le
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