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Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball

Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

Articles by Miles Kimball

Anthony Komaroff: The Microbiome and Risk for Obesity and Diabetes

1 day ago

Research has begun to demonstrate that the quality of bacteria in one’s gut is important for human health. Let me call the quality of bacteria in one’s gut "microbiome capital." Anthony Komaroff makes the argument that microbiome capital could plausibly be important early in his Journal of the American Medical Association summary article "The Microbiome and Risk for Obesity and Diabetes":Beginning at the moment of birth, each human increasingly coexists with microbes. By the time individuals reach adulthood, they are colonized by many more microbial cells than the roughly 13 trillion human cells. More important still, these microbial cells

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John Locke Argues for the Historicity of Social Contracts

3 days ago

In arguing for the historicity of social contracts, John Locke makes two interesting arguments in Sections 100-104 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (in Chapter VIII, "Of the Beginning of Political Societies"). He argues:the state of nature is so unattractive that the transition to some form of government would have occurred quite early on. government is likely to come before writing, so one should not expect a lot of written history on the formation of governments from the state of nature. The second argument especially, is a very interesting argument for the selectivity of records. He is entertaining in putting it

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Josh Jones: Hear What Homer’s Odyssey Sounded Like When Sung in the Original Ancient Greek

4 days ago

Image by via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been a humanist truism for some time to say that Shakespeare speaks to every age, transcending his time and place through the sheer force of his universal genius. But any honest student first encountering the plays will tell you differently, as will many a seasoned scholar who works hard to place the writer and his work in historical context. Even onetime director of London’s National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner, once said, “I’ll admit that I hardly ever go to a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays without experiencing blind panic during the first five minutes. I sit there thinking… I have no idea what these people are talking about.”
Of course, none of that means we can’t learn to appreciate Shakespeare, and we do not need a graduate-level

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Matt Stoller: How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

5 days ago

It was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies—as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known—were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, “We came here to take the Bastille.”

Latest from Politics

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You Can Learn Dramatically More in the Same Amount of Time. Here’s How.

7 days ago

When people think of technological progress, they usually think of technological progress in the natural sciences and their applied wings: physics, biology, engineering and medicine, for example. Bu at least one area of the social sciences where technological progress has the potential to make a major difference to conventionally-measured GDP: the science of learning and teaching. Between learning and teaching, the science of learning comes first, since teaching is nothing more than helping someone to learn.Some of the most exciting science about learning comes from psychologists rather than education school professors. …Implications for

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Letting Go of Sugar

8 days ago

Link to the video above on YouTube. Link to the lyrics for the song "Now I Know."An official designation that something is "addictive" is a very political matter. But the addictive, or at least psychotropic, quality of sugar is indicated by things like:the way children’s perception of their day revolves around the sugary treats they consumed,the physiological and mental changes that loosen the hold of sugar after three weeks or so of avoiding it, and  the ease with which lyrics about romantic relationships can be reinterpreted as lyrics about sugar.  At the top, I have a video of Lari White singing "Now I Know." Try interpreting the second person pronoun "you" in these first two stanzas and refrain in the middle as referring to sugar:I always wondered how I’d live without youIf you ever

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Sandy Ikeda: Housing: The Case for YIMBY (Yes, In My Back Yard!)

9 days ago

You hear that a private developer plans to build a new apartment building across the street. What does that mean to you? Here are some typical responses:
“More traffic and less street parking!”
“Crowded classrooms!”
“My home will lose value!”
“The character of the neighborhood will change!”
Or the ever-popular-but-seldom-spoken, “The wrong kind of people will move in!”
The shorthand for this sort of reaction is not in my backyard (NIMBY)!
Resisting change and sticking to the old ways, the tried-and-true, is a very natural sentiment for most of us. We grow accustomed, attached even, to where we live, even if we often complain about it. For the most part we pretty much like the way things are. If someone proposes building something nearby, even if it promises to make our lives somehow

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Dan Reynolds, Lead Singer of Imagine Dragons, on the Human Cost of the Mormon Church’s Stand Against Gay Marriage

10 days ago

Trailer for "Believer"I highly recommend the HBO documentary "Believer." It shows the best and worst of Mormonism in one package. Dan Reynolds’s idealism is familiar to me from all of the Mormons and ex-Mormons I know. I believe that idealism owes a lot to his Mormon background. That is the best of Mormonism. But also on display in "Believer" is the willingness of Mormon Church leaders put what in their view is essential for the preservation of the institution and their own power—not an entirely distinct concept—ahead of the welfare of gay members of the Mormon Church. The Mormon Church has a doctrinal view that is very negative about gay marriage. But the harshness of its policy against gay marriage goes well beyond even the harshness of its anti-gay-marriage doctrine. (See my post "The

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Jessica Stillman: 10 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter

11 days ago

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Matthew Robare: Can Construction Costs Be Brought Down?

12 days ago

Can Construction Costs Be Brought Down?In addition to design, the Reframing Housing Development Conference of the Joint Center for Housing Studies addressed issues in the construction industry.“The mainstream of the American housing industry, doesn’t care about this issue,” said moderator Frank Anton, a former CEO of Hanley Wood. “They’re very excited in New York because the price is $4000 per square foot.”In his welcome, Christopher Herbert, the managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies showed some graphs that compared the inflation-adjusted cost of a new home in the late 1960s to now. It showed that the cost of a new home had increased from $155,000 in 1963 to $382,000 in 2017. He said that some of the could be explained by increases in quality — houses have increased in

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Why Donald Trump’s Support Among Republicans Has Solidified

13 days ago

Donald Trumps support among Republicans has been rising. Gerald Seib reports this from a recent Wall Street Journal poll in his July 23, 2018 article "The Trump Divide Grows Wider":… what’s striking is the solid support Mr. Trump is now winning inside his own camp. A remarkable 88% of self-identified Republicans say they approve of the job he is doing, the highest share within a president’s own party at this stage of a presidency since President George W. Bush’s standing after the 9/11

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Prevention is Much Easier Than Cure of Obesity

15 days ago

Given patience and fortitude at the beginning, what is needed for curing obesity can become easy—in steady state. The basic argument for that is in my post "4 Propositions on Weight Loss." But the steps needed to cure obesity are not an easy path. Prevention is much easier.PreventionThe scientific verdict has not been delivered, but as a hypothesis I have mentioned before, I see two things that plausibly have the right timing to explain the worldwide rise in obesity:The rise of sugar, flour, and modern processed foods.The likely expansion of the daily eating window from, say, 10 hours (for example, 8 AM to 6 PM) to almost 16 hours (from

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John Locke’s Argument for Majority Rule

17 days ago

John Locke makes an argument for majority rule in Sections 95-99 of John Locke’s 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (in Chapter VIII, "Of the Beginning of Political Societies"). His main argument is that some decision-making procedure must be binding on every member of a civil society, otherwise it cannot function as any improvement over the state of nature. That argument does not point specifically to majority rule. However, I think he is right in something he does not say explicitly, but is relying on: simple majority rule is the default rule humans tend to revert to in cases where everyone in a group is considered

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Adam Gopnik: History, Well Read, is Simply Humility Well Told

19 days ago

About a year ago, I wrote about some attempts to explain why anyone would, or ought to, study English in college. The point, I thought, was not that studying English gives anyone some practical advantage on non-English majors, but that it enables us to enter, as equals, into a long existing, ongoing conversation. It isn’t productive in a tangible sense; it’s productive in a human sense. The action, whether rewarded or not, really is its own reward. The activity is the answer.It might be worth asking similar questions about the value of studying, or at least, reading, history these days, since it is a subject that comes to mind many mornings on the op-ed page. Every writer, of every political flavor, has some neat historical analogy, or mini-lesson, with which to preface an argument for why

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Must All Economics Papers Be Doorstoppers?

20 days ago

Economics papers have gotten bigger. The world outside the orbit of economists has noticed. The Wall Street Journal devoted 967 words to this topic in Ben Leubsdorf’s July 23, 2018 article. He writes:The average length of a published economics paper has more than tripled over the past four decades, and some academics are sick of wading through them. …Between 1970 and 2017, the average length of papers published in five top-ranked economics journals swelled from 16 pages to 50 pages, according to an analysis by University of California, Berkeley economists Stefano DellaVigna and David Card.The graph on the left just below shows this

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Automatic Enrollment Boosts Pension Participation and Saving in the UK

21 days ago

Automatic enrolment – where employers have to enrol employees into a workplace pension scheme, from which employees can then choose to leave – increased pension saving by £2.5 billion per year by April 2015.
This is one of the main findings of new research, published today by the IFS and funded by the IFS retirement saving consortium.1 The research exploits data on almost half a million jobs from April 2011 to April 2015 to look at how contributions to workplace pensions by private sector employers and their employees have been affected by automatic enrolment.
The increase in pension saving arises from a big increase in pension membership. We find that automatic enrolment increased pension participation among those eligible by 37 percentage points, so that by April

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4 Propositions on Weight Loss

22 days ago

Before: Miles, May 27, 2016. In Montreal. Photo by Gail Cozzens Kimball. You may use this image as long as your use includes a link to this post.

After: Miles Spencer Kimball, June 19, 2018. Photo by Gail Cozzens Kimball. You may use this image as long as your use includes a link to this post or the home page of this blog:

The other day I was catching up with my friend Kim Leavitt, who is a deep thinker. I told him about the

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C. Thi Nguyen: Escaping the Echo Chamber by a Social Reboot

23 days ago

Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically

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New Mormon Prophet Russell Nelson Shakes Things Up

24 days ago

Within hours of when he was formally accepted as head of the Mormon Church ("sustained" in Mormon jargon), new Mormon Prophet Russell Nelson began announcing major changes to Mormon practice. Some touched on hot-button issues in the broader society, such as measures to reduce the dangers of sexual abuse by local church leaders, and the choice of an Asian-American and a Latin-American apostle. (An apostle is one of the top 15 Mormon leaders, in line to become a Prophet himself, if he lives long enough. They are all male.) But there are two other big changes whose importance for the lives of Mormons takes some explaining. They and the

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Alexandra Schwartz’s Skeptical January 15, 2018 Rundown of Self-Improvement Books

25 days ago

Self-help advice reflects the beliefs and priorities of the era that spawned it.Illustration by Nishant ChoksiHappy New Year, you! Now that the champagne has gone flat and the Christmas tree is off to be mulched, it’s time to turn your thoughts to the months ahead. 2017 was a pustule of a year, politically and personally; the general anxiety around the degradation of American democracy made it hard to get much done. That’s O.K., though, because you’ve made new resolutions for 2018, and the first one is not to make resolutions. Instead, you’re going to “set goals,” in the terminology of the productivity guru Tim Ferriss—preferably ones that are measurable and have timelines, so you can keep track of your success. Apps like Lifetick or Joe’s Goals will help by keeping you organized and

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Guillaume Thierry: People Who Can Speak a Second Language Often Compartmentalize Their Experience by Language Used

26 days ago

English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.

The most spoken second languages in Europe.

Image: Eurostat

But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of

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Economist Twitter Stars

27 days ago

Paul Krugman has enough Twitter followers to equal the population of a megacity. And quite quite a few economists have, on their own, have a medium-sized city worth of Twitter followers. A long way down the list, my own followers

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Stephen Williamson on an Inverted Yield Curve as a Harbinger of Recession

28 days ago

Nick Tamaraos has a nice summary of issues to do with the flattening US Treasury yield curve, and the implications for monetary policy. Some people, including Tim Duy, and some regional Fed Presidents, are alarmed by the flattening yield curve, and the issue entered the policy discussion at the last FOMC meeting.What’s going on? While it’s typical to focus on the margin between 10-year Treasuries and 2-years, I think it’s useful to capture the very short end of the yield curve as well. I would use the fed funds rate for the short end, but that’s sometimes contaminated by risk, so the 3-month t-bill rate, which most of the time seems to be driven primarily by monetary policy, seems like a good choice. Here’s the time series of the 3-month T-bill, the 2-year Treasury yield, and the

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Against Sugar: The Messenger and the Message

29 days ago

Many Americans have begun to turn against sugar. Gary Taubes has been leading the charge with his book The Case Against Sugar, which sharpens the attacks he made in his previous two books, Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat.Gary Taubes has risen high enough that he is set up for a fall. And there is plenty of dirt. He has played fast and loose with some of his history, putting words in the mouth of long-dead scholars they said or meant, and pointing out that people he disagrees with were compromised by sugar-industry ties, but neglecting to point out that people he agrees with were compromised by other food-industry ties.I sense

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