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I Win My European Unemployment Bet (econlib.org)
104 points by shubhamjain 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments



Correct on the numbers, but the conclusions don't necessarily follow

> Most of the harm of unemployment is psychological, not material. Holding income constant, the employed are much happier than the unemployed. Hence, no sensible person would want to see U.S. workers’ wages rise by 10% if the unemployment rate rose 3.5 percentage-points as a result. And psychology aside, remember that the welfare state forces active workers to support the idle. So when regulation forces wages up, even the lucky workers who keep their jobs ultimately forfeit much of what they gain.

If the goal is to improve happiness through applied economics then you should measure happiness, not make ad hoc justifications based on some other metric


Yeah. It's also somewhat incomplete analysis about happiness because it views it as steady state. I mean, anedcotally, sure, being employed is good and being unemployed (even with a good safety net) is bad. But being laid off is much worse than either because of the disruption it causes.

Consider, would you rather spend a career with a single 1-year blemish where you had to live on the dole because you couldn't find work after changing career paths or whatever, or one where you were laid off four times for three months at a time? Those don't seem as symmetric to me as they do to the author.

That said, I think the points raised are valid. It does seem like in 2009 the market of academic economists was too bearish on the long term US unemployment situation.


It is very well established that psychological stability, in youth and adults, comes at least partially from there being a need for psychological stability. Structure and "somewhere to be" really, really help.

Therefore I have little doubt that if you looked it up, you would indeed find that it's true that employment leads to increased happiness.


Being laid off is temporary. And it can result in a better outcome, esp. when your previous employer was dysfunctional.

Source: I was just laid off.


In early 2001 when I was laid off from a startup for the first time, the CTO told me "Don't worry, it is __always__ for the best," which I took to be an empty platitude at the time.

18 years, 4 layoffs (and 1 walkoff) later, I can reflect back and say that he was only being emphatically honest. Each departure led to generous advancement, the sort that does not seem to come, these days, from loyalty to one's company or present role.


The first sentence of the paragraph you quote links to data connecting unemployment to unhappiness.


And yet 'happiness' is an elusively squishy metric, compounded by the fact that humanity is incredibly good at seeking out reasons to be discontent. Ambition, envy, and anxiety at all levels of poverty and wealth alike are fuel to that fire.


True, but I think it's pretty universal that having to piss in a bottle to make a billionaire slightly richer does generally not contribute towards one's personal happiness.


> Europe has higher unemployment than the U.S. because it has stricter labor market regulation

French here. I think he is stating the obvious, nobody is denying that. It's also the same reason it's hard to find a house in France: protective laws make both tenants and employers worried, and they filter quite hard the hiring/renting prospects.

On the other hand, once you are hired, being fired is pretty hard. So you don't have to worry about your boss being as abusive as you can find in the US because you can talk back.

Well, that's the theory. In practice I've rarely been talked badly by most people, the one time somebody was abusive, I told them to piss off, and they fired me. And I've never had any trouble finding a gig in my life ever since.

So your milage may vary as usual, but most people around me do report having a hard time with hiring/renting because of high steaks for both parties.


> On the other hand, once you are hired, being fired is pretty hard. So you don't have to worry about your boss being as abusive as you can find in the US because you can talk back.

If your boss is abusive then the solution is not to talk back but to pack your stuff and move to a better job, and leave your boss with the problem of replacing you.


In France you're also obligated to give your employer 1-3 months notice before leaving by law.

[flagged]


"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

(Also, personal attacks will get you banned here, so please don't.)


That's a really dishonest interpretation.


What part is inaccurate?


The "your main concern" part, just to start.


Okay, what other concerns does he mention? All he says is that being fired is difficult...which he then suggests is important because you can then be rude to your boss. No other reasons are used to support this idea.


You're attaching a very unreasonable interpretation to the term "talk back". It's not a pure desire to be rude to people; it's about being able to voice contrary opinions, without fear of unfair retribution and if necessary, without being constrained by political correctness or a corporate culture that demands obeisance. No employee should ever have to fear getting fired for speaking up about something that seems illegal, dangerous, or just plain stupid.



> I’m not afraid to repeat that I have publicly demonstrated that my judgment is good. And in my demonstrably good judgment, radical deregulation of Europe’s labor markets is long overdue. I’m happy to make the Quiggin bet all over again with anyone who’s interested, but what’s the point? My homeschooled sons understood all of this when they were 12.

Is this satire?


Brian Caplan is well known for placing long term bets on such things and having won all of them so far. Though his bet against Brexit happening is in jeopardy.

As for his pride in his home schooled sons, and their agreement with their teacher, I'd call that expected and understandable bias.


He's right. Is there any better way to quantitatively measure one's judgement than to make public bets on future events against people who are willing to put money on the other side? Yeah it comes across as smug, but 19-0 is 19-0. I think your response is unproductive and dismissive without directly addressing anything, and is therefore annoying.


For most people this would be astonishing braggadocio, but Bryan Caplan has quite literally put his money where his mouth is.

Of course, he's able to selectively make bets when he feels most confident — but anyone else would be able to the same thing, and yet they don't.


I think the meta-point is that betting on intellectual ideas is an underused tool in the toolbox of decision making. Endless academic journal debates don't seem to help much in moving people across ideological divides.

For all of those that disagree with his methodology or conclusions, if you can reach him, I recommend putting your money where your mouth is and proposing a different bet with Dr. Caplan.

I see a lot of people in the comments offended by his tone. I see his tone as analogous to a soccer player celebrating after a goal. We should socially encourage such behavior for those who win fair intellectual bets. (Although there is such a thing as unsportsmanly gloating, although I don't think this is such an example.)


everybody read Robin Hanson and google "futarchy"

it won't work because people don't like it, but super interesting ideas that could potentially be applied in narrow domains


Are prisoners counted as unemployed? Are they employed when assigned to "penal servitude"?

The are at several other reason US unemployment numbers are lower: they have different percentages in prison and, on the opposite side, nonstandard employment like the military. They have more clout to enforce favorable trade agreements. The numbers are calculated differently.

There maybe a difference in real employment numbers but these are not the figures and the conjectural cause for this unknown difference is just a conjecture.


Prisoners aren't counted at all---not even as "not in the labor force" [0]. The employment statistics are based on the civilian non-institutional population, and prisoners are institutionalized.

[0] https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm#concepts


Is "not in the labor force" the right category? Treating it that way will reduce unemployment numbers by reducing the counted population.

No matter what category you put these groups in, you will have an uncomfortable discrepancy similar, although to a lesser degree, of comparing apples to oranges. This is because prisoners are not identical with non-exsistant people nor are they identical to employed people.

Additionally, since military is considered employment, Europeans could boost employment just by expanding their military: as if unemployment is caused by a small military. I sense this is not the conclusion the authors would like.

So I too will bet that 10 years from now, European unemployment numbers will be higher than the US. My explanation: the counting techniques, prison ratios, relative world influence, military sizes as well as greater employment security will remain about the same.


Governments have a vested interest in keeping the numbers low. Right now people who don't want a job (e.g. stay-at-home-parents) aren't in the workforce. Also it's counting jobs vs people in the labor force. Meaning if someone has 2 jobs, there's really also an extra unemployed person. Also 1h/week counts as a job.

Without those modifications US unemployment is over 10%, EU unemployment well in the 20% even in the Netherlands.

An even fairer measure would be "active population" which is number of people working on jobs divided by the full population. Of course at that point babies and comatose patients count as unemployed, but I think it's fair because it correctly points out that the employed have to pay (in work, not money) for the entire population.

At that point US is high 30% unemployed, EU low 40% (about a 5% difference).


How do either statistic handle people are are slightly employed or have given up working? Barely employed doesn't make ends meet.

https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0609/what-the-un...

Does this bet mean anything if the only employment you can get is 10 hours a week at minimum wage?


I find it odd that the article references the BLS, defines terms for discouraged worker and underemployment, but doesn't mention that the BLS also tracks that data and more, like labor force participation, omits the terms under which the BLS tracks the data (e.g. U-6 data), as well as omitting links to the data too. The last is maybe understandable, but the article leaves a general impression that the BLS misses that when the opposite is true.


If all were forced to work or starve, I'd bet many would live in the same house and each work to pay their share of the rent, food, etc.

I know I'm stating the obvious, but it seems to me that this reality is not as abject as democrats make it seem to be.


> Does this bet mean anything if the only employment you can get is 10 hours a week at minimum wage?

Yes, because it's about relative rates. Unless you believe the EU is more "honest" about reporting unemployment numbers, the US numbers are just as meaningful.


Wow this author sounds smug.

> Most of the harm of unemployment is psychological, not material. Holding income constant, the employed are much happier than the unemployed.

This doesn't factor in that employed workers might be much happier in countries where they can work without the possibility of being fired at any moment for no reason hanging over their heads.


If you can correctly predict economic developments for 10 years on a world scale, I think you'd be entitled to sound a little smug too. I've read a lot of economists much more smug that utterly failed to predict something right under their noses, and still are regarded as respected and asked for more prediction. I'd rather take one that can predict stuff, smug or not.


But we exist in the world where he was right - the article doesn't point to any methodology. It was 50/50.


That reminds me of a joke - what's the probability of meeting of a dinosaur in the street? 50% - either I meet him, or I don't!

Not every event with two outcomes is 50/50, you know :) And the article does point to both the subject of the bet - unemployment indexes, which are known to all participants and it's kinda the job of the economist to know what they mean - and why Caplan thought he would win. It may be, of course, that he won randomly and his theory is still wrong - but in general people that successfully predict real world outcomes are regarded better in most scientific endeavors than people that predict wrongly.


> It was 50/50.

1) The fact that there are two possible outcomes does not make the odds 50/50.

2) As others have pointed out, he has a history of winning the bets he makes, well above 50/50.


Considering that he's won 19 of these bets, he'd have to be a very, very lucky person if it was just a 50-50 bet.


They aren't all independent 50/50 bets. There are a few clear trends in the wagers (bullish on the US economy, Eurozone/EU will not completely go to shit), so predicting just a few trends correctly wins most of the bets (though being wrong on those same things would lose most bets) and there are some bets at very long odds (e.g. 200:1 odds on Ron Paul becoming president) so even the person on the other side of the bet doesn't think it's a likely outcome.


50-50 that he'd win the bet by almost 3 percent per year?

That's more like 1000-1 against.


He includes a link to data connecting unemployment to unhappiness.

His so-called smugness derives from betting: putting his ideas on the line and winning. I think he's the opposite of smug because he's humble enough to put his ideas to the test. Maybe he gloats, but I think we should socially encourage victors gloating (in fair competitions).


What did he test though? That over a given decade, unemployment might be higher in one nation-state than a collection of others?

What's the hypothesis? Where's the valuable data gotten from this?

My idea of equivalent action: Me stating "the president 10 years from now will be the first 3rd party president ever."

Why? Who knows! And if I was right, and make a blog post that says "See, I was right!" And then point to a bunch of things that happened after my prediction that led to this result, what did we learn? Anything at all?


The point is that these are bets between people who disagree with each other. They negotiate the data and terms and hopefully learn from the result and change their minds. This is one way to help tune bayesian priors about what ideas and people to trust and investigate further.


This is an economist betting that higher regulation causes higher unemployment, and winning. That's a useful step better than simply stating the opinion. It's much worse than a randomize controlled trial, and it would be delightful if the European Union could be convinced to carry those out for science. But employees and employers tend to object to being experimented on.


Also it may be more comfortable to be unemployed in a country that doesn't treat unemployment benefit claimants as “scroungers” or employ workfare.


It's insanely more comfortable to be unemployed where your healthcare isn't tied to your employment.

I choose free healthcare over employer supplied health insurance every day.


It’s not free, it’s universal.

You pay for, it but the insurer is less cynical.


Well it's effectively free if you're life-long unemployed.

But almost more importantly, the healthcare isn't being delivered by companies trying to make a profit but from central funding instead. Sometimes that means making really difficult decisions such as NICE refusing to fund a cystic fibrosis drug because the US pharmaceutical company wants to charge $138,000[1] per patient per year.

But those difficult decisions mean the limited funding (and no funding can be infinite) can be targeted and spent to deliver the most benefit as a whole. Heart-breaking for those with children with C.F. but hopefully the U.S. drug company will soon back down. If it weren't for brexit they likely would have done so already.

This article explains NICE's QALY (Quality adjusted life year) methodology: https://www.nice.org.uk/news/blog/carrying-nice-over-the-thr...

One of the most important reasons to resist the privatisation of healthcare is because it would actually lead to worse outcomes for the same money spent as the decisions of where to direct funding would be less evidence based.

You're right, it's not free, and in fact needs more investment to prevent it being privatised. Britons spend less on healthcare than most, even in fact spending less per person than the US does through taxation alone[2].

[1] https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1094 [2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42950587


Denmark? Probably the weakest hiring/firing laws in the developed world (in terms of employee protection) and, last I checked, one of the happiest countries in the world.


They also have strong safety nets and pretty much the strongest unions in Europe, state backed, state financed, with extensive legal protections.

They have flexi- but they also have -security.


Which is exactly my point. The post I am replying to said:

> workers might be much happier in countries where they can work without the possibility of being fired at any moment

The reason why this is an issue is nothing to do with actually being fired, it is due to the difficulty of getting rehired...which is a bigger issue if labour markets don't function (and in most European nations, as the higher unemployment has risen, the more desperately the privileged few have clung onto their protections worsening the issue).

This is why Denmark went the other way: the logic for inflexible labour markets is only consistent when labour markets are not flexible. Remove that and target spending where it is actually needed i.e. on meeting the needs of the market.

The idea of stronger safety nets is also not particularly true (the idea of strong/weak never made sense to me). Social security is not universal as in the UK or US, it is based on contributions. And the reasons unions work, again in contrast particularly with the UK, is that they collaborate with employers (Denmark's union participation rate is anomalous but even compared with somewhere like Germany).


> while the people currently in American prisons might not be model workers, most of them could easily be gainfully employed on the outside.

A point easily refuted

PDF - https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/59416/...

https://money.cnn.com/2015/10/30/news/economy/former-inmates...

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/business/out-of-trouble-b...

Even if the excons are model, PERFECT employees, the conviction could prevent them from getting a job.

Even if they have the greatest work ethic in the world, they might have gone into prison at 18 due to mandatory minimum sentences, came out at 23 with no skills and no money for education (or housing as a base of operations).

And, often the case, the system has fucked them, and they have no desire to participate in the system that fucked them.

I appreciate the author making such clear and well-stated points, that makes it easy to use to simple facts to refute his/her argument.


> Even if the excons are model, PERFECT employees, the conviction could prevent them from getting a job. I appreciate the author making such clear and well-stated points, that makes it easy to use to simple facts to refute his/her argument.

It's pretty clear in context that this isn't actually what they're talking about at all.

Caplan is responding to Quiggin's claim that mass incarceration has a measurable effect of targeting people who would otherwise have been unemployed if they had never been arrested and incarcerated in the first place. He's not literally arguing that releasing those people from prison overnight would result in them getting a job.


It is no surprise that ex-cons have a high unemployment rate compared to the average member of society.

A full refutation of his argument would give an analysis of the number of ex-cons, their unemployment rate, the hypothetical unemployment rate based on the assumption that the US's current prison stock were diminished to that of Europe, and demonstration that US unemployment numbers would be higher than Europe's in this case.

You have made the motions of charitably interpreting the author's argument without actually doing so.


Your own source:

"Researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School who followed 122 men and women who had been released from the state prison in Massachusetts found that six months to a year after their release, just over half of the group had found a job."

That means he's actually right by a narrow margin. Most ("just over half") former inmates did find a job.

This source reports an unemployment rate of only 25%:

http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2018/07/16/report-finds-on...

> I appreciate the author making such clear and well-stated points, that makes it easy to use to simple facts to refute his/her argument.

You didn't refute anything. Of course a conviction is career poison and one can write long-winded articles on the injustice of it. Still, the statistics say: Most ex-convicts can find a job.


Subdivide it into economies that are broadly similar and the conclusion does not hold anymore. Germany‘s unemployment is smaller than the US despite having a much more regulated job market. Problem is, the EU isn‘t really one homogeneous entity when it comes to job market regulation (Denmark is pretty laissez-faire, France much less so), so it‘s disingenious to treat them all the same.

On another note, his smug tone doesn‘t really help.


I would very much like to see Quiggin's reply to this, or some kind of independent rebuttal. His arrogance, the pejorative way he refers to those who disagree with him, the blatant one-sidedness and poorly concealed rhetoric of his arguments, all that leads me to not believe a single thing he says without independent commentary.


this guy has a very one dimensional view of labour regulation, there's a lot more to it than just how easily you can be fired. Things like minimum paid leave of 20 days or more.


I think it is much more interesting to look at the inverse. i.e. employment rate and it is quite a surprise to see this in the last 10 years between a slight growth in the euro area and decline in the US.

Also the difference between unemployment rate over time and labour force participation is interesting. https://d3fy651gv2fhd3.cloudfront.net/charts/united-states-l...


Humm. I find his assertion that employed people are happier than unemployed people interesting. I wonder if this is because a lot of people live pay check to pay check and the loss of income puts them in a serious bind.

I was laid off last year, and I've been fortunate that I had a good salary and have been able to save a lot. Those few months I was unemployed were the happiest I've been in a decade. I did some traveling and projects around the house I've been wanting to do. In fact I quit claiming unemployment because the required job searches were killing my buzz.


Same here. When I was unemployed for a while the only thing that made me unhappy was the fear of running out of money. If I had a guaranteed income of some level that allows me to survive I would not need a job to be happy.


I would just like to point out that many people who have been incarcerated have little chance to build a career outside of starting their own businesses. Once they get out of jail they would actually be unemployed most likely for some time if it wasn’t for sheer necessity of some paycheck. Often people would rather stay incarcerated for 3 meals, a bed, a roof, and basic medical care.


People like this author are the people who give economists a bad name. What arrogant writing and totally one dimensional thinking.


Dr. Caplan is a big proponent of betting. Disputes in academic journals are endless and inconclusive. Betting gets people to put their money where their mouth is. I think this is the best part of the economics profession and needs to be applied to more parts of society.


I am ok with betting. But the writing is horrible and the thinking is one dimensional.


No mention here of the fact that European governments went much harder on austerity policies than the US after the financial crisis? I seem to recall reading for years that European countries were lagging in recovery rate due to policies of austerity while the US largely resisted calls from erstwhile deficit hawks to do the same.


That's an interesting bet. It would also be interesting to see how UK fares compared to Euro zone in the next 10 years after the breakaway with Bexit. Some economists should do a bet on it. Nothing invigorating academic debates more than when money is on the line.


I’d like to see some politicians on both sides of the Brexit argument lay down some bets.


I like Quiggin. He's an almost lone voice of reason about privatization and the shocking effects on public utility functions like electricity supply. I wish him well even if he is down $1k on the bet.


> What does this all mean? To me, this bet is just a small extra piece of evidence in favor of the orthodox and blindingly obvious theory that Europe has higher unemployment than the U.S. because it has stricter labor market regulation.

Insofar as I'm aware it mostly means that US unemployment is under-reported.

The labor force participation rate has yet to fully recover from its pre-2008 levels, and you're not counted as unemployed if you worked an hour the previous week.

European countries, by contrast, have mostly not changed their definitions of unemployment since, and have a relatively sane definition of what it means to be employed. This is not to say it's perfect -- far from it. But at least they're not counting 1h/week Uber drivers as employed.

See e.g.:

https://qz.com/877432/the-us-unemployment-rate-measure-is-de...


> European countries, by contrast, have mostly not changed their definitions of unemployment since, and have a relatively sane definition of what it means to be employed. This is not to say it's perfect -- far from it. But at least they're not counting 1h/week Uber drivers as employed.

To quote directly from an official EU website [0] (which I presume is how employment statistics is defined within the EU):

> Employment (persons in employment):

> Employed persons comprise persons aged 15 years and more who were in one of the following categories:

> (a) persons who during the reference week worked for at least one hour for pay or profit or family gain.

> (b) persons who were not at work during the reference week but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent.

---

From reading how the US government defines employment/unemployment/labor force participation [1], the definitions appear to be materially the same (employed means working for at least one hour in the EU and for at least 1 second in the US or being temporarily absent, unemployed means not being considered employed and having actively looked for work in the last 4 weeks, and not being in the labor force means not being employed and not being unemployed).

[0]: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...

[1]: https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm


> From reading how the US government defines employment/unemployment/labor force participation [1], the definitions appear to be materially the same

They are the same. There are six different levels of unemployment which are measured and published regularly. One of them, U3, corresponds to what the UN uses and is the de facto international standard. Back in the 1990s, the BLS decided to start referring to this as the "official" unemployment rate instead of one of the other five, in order to adhere to a common standard.


This is a fun trope- "the US unemployment rate is made up and let me give you reasons it may not be accurate..."

Yes, turns out that there are a LOT of ways to measure this, and the people whose jobs it is to do so have chosen some, and even laid out the pros and cons of each of them. Yes, the definition of unemployment that you usually hear (U3) has things it doesn't count. But those choices were made intentionally because they thought it was more useful this way... not because they are too stupid to understand this, or because of a vast conspiracy.


> European countries, by contrast, have mostly not changed their definitions of unemployment since

The US has not changed the definitions of the six different levels of unemployment.

25 years ago, the BLS changed the headline statistic that they lead with from U5 to U3, in order to provide an apples-to-apples comparison with what the UN measures. That change was 14 years before 2008, and the BLS still publishes all six.


I don't think that's true - they're using a harmonized rate that is effectively measured the same way. Here's the original publication that the author is responding to:

http://cepr.net/documents/publications/US-EU-UR-2009-05.pdf

It'd be pretty silly of two professional economists to make a bet about two numbers that are measured differently. They know about U3 vs U6.

Also, I don't think anyone has changed their definitions of unemployment recently. BLS publishes all of them and the official rate has been U3 for like, 40 years or something.


Another important source of hidden unemployment is Social Security Disability.

It is the new welfare in parts of the south and Midwest where globalization has hit the hardest.


The U1-U6 measures of unemployment are all published. I'm sure we can match up to the closest measure in the EU. The article mentioned a harmonized unemployment rate so maybe there is something comparable.


For those interested in how the harmonized rate is defined across countries, the link below states it as:

the unemployed are persons of working age who, in the reference period:

− are without work,

− are available for work; and,

− have taken specific steps to find work.

More detail would probably be helpful, but the harmonized rate attempts to apply equally across countries. There may be methodological differences, but I doubt those differences would be stronger than the difference the author of TFA found.

https://www.oecd.org/sdd/labour-stats/44743407.pdf


It's worth noting that the economist John Quiggin didn't propose an adjustment for this in the bet.


> That said, I heartily commend Quiggin for actually making our bet. He towers above all of the apologists for European labor market regulation who refuse to put their money where their mouths are.

I know nothing of the people or personalities involved...but this does not give me a good impression of the author. First, he never refers to anyone with a contrary opinion in any way other than "apologist". Second, he never addresses any other value than the unemployment rate as a number (for example, I can easily imagine an "apologist" being uninterested in his bet if they think he might be right about the numbers, but they value the regulation for other reasons). In never addressing their views, he dismisses them as unworthy.

I'm poorly versed in economics so I don't really have an opinion on the actual matter under debate...but I can easily see him writing a smug and self-congratulatory article on this topic that nonetheless gave me a better opinion of him.


> Second, he never addresses any other value than the unemployment rate as a number (for example, I can easily imagine an "apologist" being uninterested in his bet if they think he might be right about the numbers, but they value the regulation for other reasons). In never addressing their views, he dismisses them as unworthy.

Dr. Caplan reached out to the other economists and they didn't respond (which could have included proposing a different bet with different values). He is very judgy about public intellectuals that don't bet on their claims. I wouldn't call that dismissive because said intellectuals impose massive costs on society if they're wrong. It's not enough to hide behind unquantifiable hopes.

> I know nothing of the people or personalities involved...but this does not give me a good impression of the author. First, he never refers to anyone with a contrary opinion in any way other than "apologist".

Apologist is a bit of a brash word, but it's a possible conclusion if a public intellectual is unwilling to put their ideas to tests and revise if necessary.


There's a lot to be said for putting your money where your mouth is. People who aren't willing to risk being wrong can't be trusted to be right.


Frankly I wouldn't trust anyone who brags this loudly about a $100 bet and home schools his children.

Seriously: "radical deregulation of Europe’s labor markets is long overdue" because you won a pub-sized bet? I'll take economic and financial advice with a tad fewer delusions of grandeur, thank you very much.


Absolutely! But in this case, someone might approve of the EU-style regulations WITHOUT believing they necessarily lead to a lower unemployment number (they might value other aspects, such as living wages, resistance to shocks, benefits, employee<->employer power balance, etc). In such a case, the bet doesn't represent their beliefs, but they still fall in to the "apologist" camp he is decrying.


> First, he never refers to anyone with a contrary opinion in any way other than "apologist".

What's wrong with the term "apologist"? It simply means one who defends a particular viewpoint or belief. (It comes from the Greek ἀπολογία, which means a "formal oratory defense" of a position.)


I dug around a bit when you posted...and was surprised to find that "apologist" isn't generally considered rude. Then I return to the comments here and see at least one person also thought that it was.

I suppose it has to do with usage in different communities? Now I'll have to re-read this article to see if it changes the tone I read into it. (which will not be easy, because I'm definitely biased to view the author as mean/arrogant/dismissive now)


That's just being deliberately obtuse. I don't believe I've ever in my life heard "apologist" used in a non-pejorative sense. Etymology is irrelevant here.


Christian Apologists immediately come to mind for me: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_apologetics

I wouldn't consider the term "apologist" to be pejorative at all.


You mean like this...

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-65/ap...

The person you are responding to is correct. "Apologist" may be used as you say often in "modern" vernacular English, but it still is properly used as suggested.


To be fair, people such as GK Chesterton and CS Lewis are referred to as "Christian apologists" with no slight intended. But I would tend to agree that in modern times it carries a negative connotation, implying that the person is defending an incorrect or offensive belief.


> That's just being deliberately obtuse.

What? That's rather insulting to assume; I'm being absolutely serious.

> I don't believe I've ever in my life heard "apologist" used in a non-pejorative sense.

That's genuinely interesting. I've always heard it used in a respectful sense. We must run in different circles. (I've always heard it used of Christian apologetics.)


Maybe the term "apologist" is uncollegial out of context, but apologia without stake is worthy of a ribbing when the apology matures into a confirmed failure.

Also why can't people have fun battling with words and bets? It seems better than revolution or fistfights to me.


> Also why can't people have fun battling with words and bets?

They can, and it is definitely better than violence, but I don't conflate "fun" with "belittling and demeaning" . (not to imply that you do, just showing the distinction I am making). I can think of a few other "I won a bet" posts I've seen over the years and they didn't have this negativity associated with it, despite their authors clearly feeling proven justified.


> They can, and it is definitely better than violence, but I don't conflate "fun" with "belittling and demeaning".

I'll let the targets... no... the victims of the world's gentlest ribbing speak for themselves.


This is quite a coincidence. After many years of hearing the term "apologist" used exclusively as an insult, just today I looked into the etymology and found that its dictionary definition has no explicitly negative connotation.

But of course, usage in practice is what defines words. The dictionary catches up later.


But his enemies won’t fear him if he doesn’t salt the earth!


In theory people incarcerated might be gainfully employed once released, in practise they're not


Why?


"Let’s all join hands, admit that labor market regulation is a scourge, and tear down these paper walls."

This thinking is as cropped at it can be. The US is also the country with the highest consumption of anti-depressants. And what not other social problems.

Besides the whole article being a bunch of patting one self's back.


Maybe it’s a sign of the times, productivity is so high that there doesn’t exist work for everybody. Either you create bullshit jobs, or you have unemployment.

This psychology thing is forgetting that being forced in a job that doesn’t pay enough to survive is a huge drain on the worker and their family.


I sort of see Quiggins' point about incarceration and employment.


I'm sorry in advance to those economists who try hard to actually try to be rigorous and scientific about their subject.*

Rant follows:

> Forget ideology. Let’s all join hands, admit that labor market regulation is a scourge [..]

But let's not forget who the real scourge here are. Wanna-be rulers of the planet who dress themselves up as economists (though they come in many forms and degrees) making up just-so stories about why their next excuse to circumvene (or prevent) standards for upholding apparently not so common decency or (down to) basic human rights in the work place is justified. Or "economists", and the politician who lay in bed with them (sorry to those truly led astray though!), who enable business practices that profit just their interests. Or those that think it's okay to bleed the planet dry and destroy our biosphere for a quick buck. The list goes on...

Not saying the author is one of such, but they sure as hell must be out there (I'm sure their decisions are all nicely dressed in numbers and growing curves and big words!).

As a particularly egregious example what sufficiently unregulated labor markets can do, slave labor conditions in low-cost countries are unfortunately _really_ "efficient", the higher the wealth gap the better. Or even outright slavery: Esp. uneducated people in poverty have a lot of kids to support themselves, creating an endless fountain of cheap (unqualified) laborers (don't let them get too rich or educated though!). Got a prison population sitting idly? Well, they seem like an easy target to be extorted for un(der)paid labor.

Obviously there's a need for regulation here. I don't think however the author would condone any of the above, yet historically and contemporarily there have been several instances of stuff like this.

Of course there's a lot of nuance involved, modern discussion in developed countries revolves more about the /amount/ of social safety the state guarantees to the citizens plus the implementation of which, not about the /whether/ it should at all. Violations of human safety and dignity at the work place esp. in developing countries are kept behind a comforting veil of cheap prices in the rich nations. Luckily things often improve when total wealth in a country rises, mostly because you need an at least somewhat educated and satisfied population at some point to keep growing which precludes subjecting them to the direst of existences. People's desires to not be screwed with too much play a big role as well (it's not all bad, after all).

Nonetheless social systems are lacking in many countries worldwide in aspects like education, healthcare, sanitation, housing, public services or (somewhat tangentially) good ol' infrastructure. "But who will pay for all this fancy social security?". Well, who has all the money? It's basically the top 1% who possesses half the net wealth globally, which is a lot even should the number be off by a fair amount (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth#Inequal...). They don't seem to have been paying all that much then it seems.

However, like above, I don't want to make this seem about /whether/ we should have unequal wealth or not but about /how much/. Instead of trying to minimize welfare, let's ask the other way round: How much welfare could the economy sustain (without choking itself off!)? How much economic inequality is actually sustainable without tearing society apart and making it blow up like has happened in mankind's history many times?

There's an intricate balance here and many structures and parameters to tune... At the both extreme ends of wealth distribution lies dystopia and history has not been nice to countries who have left the safe zone for one reason or another.

The world is complicated, many economic statements are purely statistical. But arguing in a world with lots of known unknowns and even unknown unknowns is complicated. Abductive reasoning, which is what he attempted to do, tries to find an explanation for an observed phenomen given some background knowledge. It is an inherently unsafe type of inference in the real world. And in this instance it's non-rigorously done by a human, meaning it likely suffers from one of the many kinds of glitch in naive probabilistic/statistical reasoning (long list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases) our species has. If you add your ability change the world as an agent yourself, things get even more complicated (self-fulfilling prophecies anyone?).

Good job on his bet though. Let's make a new bet: We have people "work or die": I bet unemployment would rapidly approach 0% (dead people can't be unemployed!). Man I should get into economics with this idea.

An important reason why we can't have nice things to a degree that should be possible today is ourselves, and to fix the woes of the modern world requires an extensive look at how we organize our societies and how we cause them to be or become dysfunctional. Statements like "hurr durr I win 19 bets" in a field that is riddled with conflicts of interests and that seems just as much to be about ideology and opinion (how come there exist so many "schools of economy"? I thought we all observe the same world) as about actual evidence and rigorous reasoning seem not very impressive.

* see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem


"And psychology aside, remember that the welfare state forces active workers to support the idle. So when regulation forces wages up, even the lucky workers who keep their jobs ultimately forfeit much of what they gain."

Even a doubling in unemployment claims would be drop in the bucket compared to pension liabilities.




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