Their conversation is available on YouTube. I was particularly struck by how they approach learning from other people. I think of this as social epistemology. My notes here are focused on the lessons about social epistemology that I took away from watching the conversation.

Ordinary epistemology is concerned with the question of what to believe. I think of social epistemology as concerned with the question of who to believe. I have never delved into the academic discipline of social epistemology, but perhaps my concept of it is not too far off.

A few other preliminary thoughts before I turn to…


I will describe two modes of political discourse, which I call persuasion mode and demonization mode. In persuasion mode, we treat people on the other side with respect, we listen to their logical and factual presentations, and we respond with logical and factual presentations of our own. In demonization mode, we tell anyone who will listen that people on the other side are awful human beings.

For an example of persuasion mode, consider a high school debate team. Your chances of winning increase as you better understand the arguments on both sides. …


1. Causal Density (and complexity and cultural evolution)

There are many causal factors that affect human behavior and human interaction. As a result, “social science” is not nearly as reliable as physical science. We can speculate on what causes political and economic events, but we cannot prove our hypotheses. Experts may propose two or more differing theories, none of which can be definitively ruled out.

The main reason that human behavior cannot be analyzed with scientific precision is that our behavior is affected by culture, which is complex and subject to rapid evolution. …


The full podcast lasts three hours. This essay selects certain themes and offers my own perspective.

First theme: stagnation

Around minute three, Thiel introduces the theme that there has been stagnation in science, technology, and the economy. He and Weinstein share that view, which is an outlier view.

Thiel says that the dominant narrative is that we are in an era of rapid technological progress, so that things are getting better. According to this narrative, technological progress is so fast that it poses danger.

He says that college debt has really accelerated, and that is an indicator that things are…


Capitalist societies have three problems:

  1. They elevate material values over others.
  2. They create winners and losers.
  3. They undermine communities.

We have known about these problems for centuries. This essay will explain why they persist.

Elevating material values

Who receives high status in society? Cultures can vary. We may assign high status to the brave warrior, to the gifted athlete, to the talented artist, to the holy priest, to the martyr, to the politician, to the craftsman, or to the intellectual. …


On June 9, Erik Torenberg and I had a long and stimulating conversation for his podcast. As of this writing, I am not sure what he will keep and what he will edit out.

One of the questions he asked was about the origins of the Social Justice movement. How, he wondered, did it all come about? I was unprepared for this question, but I gave an answer off the top of my head that I will attempt to spell out below.

I think that life on campus has been challenged to adjust to a rapid increase in enrollment by…


It is natural to assume that management is management, whether you are running a small business or a big corporation. But that is not the case. They are qualitatively different.

With a small enterprise, the business is visible to the owner/manager. In contrast, much of a large corporation is invisible to the CEO, who must try instead to make the business legible.

Think of a simple restaurant, with about a dozen employees. The owner-manager knows every employee and how they are doing. The owner-manager can observe how customers are experiencing the food. The owner-manager can be on top of every…


Prisoner Bernie Madoff

Recently, some overconfident economists have advanced the idea that the United States government should not bother trying to rein in its Budget deficit. In the press, the leading overconfident economist is Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton, the proponent of the heterodox thesis she calls Modern Monetary Theory. Within the economics profession, the leading overconfident economist is Olivier Blanchard, who as President of the American Economic Association recently laid out an argument intended to persuade his fellow orthodox economists.

Most people, including Kelton and Blanchard, sow confusion on how deficit spending works. My purpose here is to provide clarity.


There is a tension in American life between goods that need to be kept in some balance, and we have often failed to find that balance lately. — Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin belongs to a political faction that I think of as conservatives in exile. They struggle to find a way for conservatism to recover from the damage that they see inflicted by President Trump. Although Levin’s recent blog essay is a response to some specific current events, it collects thoughts that he has been mulling for several years. I believe that his essay deserves a careful reading and response.


Are the circumstances that promote material well-being the opposite of those that promote tight social connection? My take-away from listening to this fascinating discussion between Russ Roberts and Sebastian Junger is that such a trade-off does exist. Their conversation centers around Junger’s book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

By tight social connection, I mean that individuals have a strong sense of belonging. They care for others. They feel appreciated when they work and sacrifice for the benefit of the group. They are confident that in turn they are cared for by others. …

Arnold Kling

Author of nonfiction books, primarily in the area of political economy. In a previous life, I started one of the first commercial web sites. Ph.D in economics

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