Imprisonment by Malthus and "Negative Liberty": Outtake from Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century

June 17, 2008: Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality

  • Smackdown Watch: Beauty, Accessibility, Crowding, Expense: Barbara Ehrenreich's basic problem, I think, is that she doesn't like beautiful places that are crowded, especially crowded with the wrong people—recall her dismissal of Maine's beautiful (and accessible! and affordable!) Old Orchard Beach as a "rinky-dink blue-collar resort." But here is Robert Waldmann to perform the smackdown...

  • Journalistic institutions that have less than zero quality control: we are looking at you, Atlantic: The Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Gregg Easterbrook Asteroid Devastation Edition)_: Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? The Atlantic Monthly features Gregg Easterbook, who writes: "The Sky Is Falling: The odds that a potentially devastating space rock will hit Earth this century may be as high as one in 10. So why isn’t NASA trying harder to prevent catastrophe?..." If the odds that a devastating space rock will hit the earth in a century are one in ten, then the chances that we have gone... one millennium without a DSR hitting the earth are 0.35... two millennia without a DSR hitting the earth are 0.12... four millennia without a DSR hitting the earth are 0.014... It's possible a devastating space rock hit the earth between eight and four millennia ago and we know nothing about it—but it's not terribly likely. It's very hard for me to believe that a devastating space rock has hit the earth since 3000 BC. We have Tunguska.... If you started out with a 50-50 prior probability that Gregg Easterbrook knows what he is talking about, your posterior probability that the lead of his Atlantic article is better than birdcage liner given no rock since 2000 BC is 0.0138. But we start with a lower probability than that, don't we? Gregg Easterbrook has a history.... If the Atlantic published an article by Gregg Easterbrook every month, we would have to wait 41 years before there was a 50-50 chance that even one of the Easterbrook articles was right...