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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

The Federalist Papers #28: The Federal Government and States Can Check One Another’s Power, Reducing the Chance of Abuses—Alexander Hamilton

21 hours ago

Alexander Hamilton’s key argument in the Federalist Papers #28 is in this passage:Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate.He contrasts the difficulty of dealing with an evil federal government with the difficult of dealing with an evil state government if a state was a nation unto itself. If a state was a nation unto itself, it is hard to defeat tyrants running the state:In a

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Did the Pandemic Speed Up Productivity Growth?

4 days ago

The Covid-19 Pandemic may have sped up technological progress and thereby productivity growth. In addition to the technology for vaccine discovery and production, the Pandemic seems to be speeding up the transition to a larger share of online purchases and a larger share of in-person purchases being made with credit or debit cards instead of cash. In addition,

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Anne Quito: Significant Pockets of the Population are Holding Out for their Preferred Brand of Vaccine, a Move that Can Delay Achieving Herd Immunity

5 days ago

“Is Pfizer available today? If not, I’ll come back tomorrow.”While on queue for the Covid-19 vaccine last week, I overheard a woman in front of me quibbling over the dose she was about to receive. To the nurse’s dismay, she refused to budge on the conviction that the mRNA vaccine manufactured by the American pharmaceutical giant was the far superior choice. It’s not a rare case. Tell people that you’ve received the jab, inevitably someone will ask: Which brand?What may sound like idle small talk points to a bigger public health challenge. Despite the chorus of medical experts stressing that any of the approved vaccines is effective against SARS-CoV2, significant pockets of the population are holding out for their preferred brand. It’s a position shaped as much by their understanding of

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In Praise of the Squatty Potty

6 days ago

Oprah Winfrey has affected my health practices in at least two ways. First, I use a neti pot. (See “Cost Benefit Analysis Applied to Neti Pot Use.”) Second, I use a Squatty Potty. My own personal experience matches the average experience of those in the study discussed (in both text and video) in Jamie Ducharme’s January 10, 2019 Time article “Scientists Say This Popular Bathroom Accessory Really Does Help You Poop Better.” The design is also well done. It scoots under the toilet out of the way when not

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George Selgin Defends Nominal GDP Targeting

7 days ago

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The title to this post is a link to George Selgin’s Twitter thread. I write about nominal GDP targeting in Optimal Monetary Policy: Could the Next Big Idea Come from the Blogosphere?I tell my students—based on the equation of exchange MV = PY, that nominal GDP targeting (targeting PY) can also be described equivalently as targeting the velocity-adjusted money supply MV. Permalink

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Easter Skepticism

8 days ago

A few Easters ago, I posted “What If Jesus Was Really Resurrected?” giving the pro-resurrection case for non-supernaturalists. This Easter, I’ll give a more skeptical take. In his April 2, 2021 essay “Recovering the Strangeness of Easter” in the Wall Street Journal, Robert Barron objects to watering down the Resurrection by treating it as a metaphor:Especially today, it is imperative that Christians recover the sheer strangeness of the Resurrection of Jesus and stand athwart all attempts to domesticate it. There were a number of prominent theologians during the years that I was going through the seminary who watered down the Resurrection, arguing

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It’s OK for the Federal Government to Provide More Competition in the Arena of Payment Systems

11 days ago

There are many dangers with having the government compete in markets. The biggest is that political forces will end up leading the government to subsidize the product or service it is providing. Subsidies can be quite costly, not only because society might then overconsume the good or service, but because getting the tax revenue to pay for the subsidies creates tax distortions. If government subsidies are the big danger, then areas where welfare can be substantially increased with a small total cost to the government are places where the benefit/cost ratio of the government competing in a market are especially good. Areas in which price is far

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Elizabeth Bernstein on Getting Better Sleep

13 days ago

On InsomniaInsomnia often has psychological roots that can be addressed with a psychological approach. In her Mrch 23, 2021 Wall Street Journal article “Can’t Sleep? Here Are Some Surprising Strategies That Actually Work,” Elizabeth Bernstein gives helpful advice of both the psychological and the more straight physiological variety. All the quotations below are from that article.Psychologically drive sleep problems often have a strong multiplier—a vicious loop. Elizabeth writes:When we tell ourselves we “can’t sleep” or “won’t be able to function” the next day, we’re causing ourselves a lot of anxiety, which further interferes with our sleep.As

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Judson Brewer, Elizabeth Bernstein and Mitchell Kaplan on Finding Inner Calm

15 days ago

Elizabeth Bernstein has a column on positive mental health in the Wall Street Journal named “Bonds.” The two columns shown above given hints about how to get more inner calm. “New Strategies for Calming Your Pandemic Anxiety” is an interview with Judson Brewer, author of Unwinding Anxiety. Elizabeth asked Judson “So how can we learn to stop fueling our

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Nicholas Gruen on How to Read Evidence in a Fast-Moving Situation Such as the Pandemic

17 days ago

[embedded content]
Here’s the transcript of my talk to Nudgestock which was held a few weeks ago. I was hoping to do it in London where it’s normally held, but in the world of COVID it migrated online and acquired for itself an enormous audience. I was told that 20,000 people watched my session and something like 130,000 tuned in for some period of the 12 hours. It was a very high standard of presentations. The video should start at my presentation, but if there’s any issue, it starts at 02:21:44
Sam: Right now I’m really excited to introduce Nicholas Gruen who’s the CEO of Latera Economics. Nicholas will be sharing how the coronavirus exposed the necessity for adaptive thinking for a focus on effectiveness and not just efficiency – often a pragmatic perspective of where the practical

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Higher Capital Requirement May Be Privately Costly to Banks, But Their Financial Stability Benefits Come at a Near Zero Cost to Society

18 days ago

In general, I am a fan of Greg Ip. So I was disappointed to see him falling into accepting the bank lobbyists’ line that higher capital requirements are bad for the economy. In fact, higher capital requirements cut into bank profits but improve financial stability at no cost to society as a whole. The cost to bank profits is made up for by less chance of taxpayers being left holding the bag on large losses. Banks see debt as a less expensive way to raise funds than equity, but the costs of raising funds

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Jed Brubaker: Tech Companies Need to Facilitate End-of-Life Technology Plans

19 days ago

It’s inevitable that at some point we must all “get our affairs in order,” and when we do, there are checklists, policies and professionals to help create everything from wills and trusts to advance directives. 

But a key element––guidance surrounding technology and end-of-life planning––is missing, says Jed Brubaker, an assistant professor in Information Science. To close this gap, Brubaker is embarking on a five-year research project supported by a $549,985 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation––one of the most prestigious awards given to faculty in the early phases of their careers.
“From the hospital to the cemetery, our deaths are already highly designed. Our digital deaths need to be as well,” says Brubaker, who has conducted research on post-mortem data for the past

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Amanda Fronk on the Gut Microbiome

20 days ago

The gut microbiome is a complex subject. Amanda Fronk’s article “Inside Micropolis” in the Fall 2018 issue of BYU Magazine is a nice distillation of some of the basics. All quotations in this post are from that article, with bullets to separate different passages. First, just to persuade you of the importance of gut bacteria, consider the effects of transplanting gut bacteria from one creature to another by transplanting poop:Consider this: Five years ago, Chinese researcher Liping Zhao and his team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University caused some mice in their lab to transform from healthy to obese in a matter of weeks, putting on four times the

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The Federalist Papers #27: People Will Get Used to the Federal Government—Alexander Hamilton

22 days ago

In the Federalist Papers #27, Alexander Hamilton argues that the federal government is likely to be acceptable enough to the people that it will seldom need to resort to full-out military force to establish its authority. In hindsight, the US Civil War and the Utah War (see “The Federalist Papers #17: Three Levels of Federal Power”) demonstrated that the federal government did, sometimes, take up war against a part of the United States. Nevertheless, there is a lot of merit to Alexander Hamilton’s arguments. Here is the Federalist Papers #27 in outline form:Why should the attitude toward the federal government be much different than to a state

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Kathryn Paige Harden: The Science of Terrible Men

24 days ago

‘What’s your favourite Woody Allen movie?’ Dylan Farrow asked the readers of The New York Times, before giving her account of Allen molesting her when she was seven years old. She challenged the continued acclaim for Allen’s movies: ‘Imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen … Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favourite Woody Allen movie?’
Farrow’s essay, published in 2014, presaged the #MeToo era, when sexual offences committed by film and entertainment stars such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK and others burst into larger public awareness. The grossness of their crimes, combined with the celebratedness of their art, prompted vociferous debate. In the words of the television critic Emily Nussbaum: ‘What should we do with the art of

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Why Thinking Geometrically and Graphically is Such a Powerful Way to Do Math

25 days ago

I am currently teaching my favorite course: “The Economics of Risk and Time.” I love the challenge of making math that could have been very difficult easier. To do that, I use geometry, graphs and diagrams as much as possible. I not only find trying to use pictures helpful for myself, I recommend it to my students when they are working on problems. Why are pictures (geometry, graphs and diagrams) so helpful in doing math—at least for those who have developed their skill in using pictures to do math? I think brain science and evolutionary psychology together give a good answer. Because our ancestors a few million years back lived in the trees,

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Why Leptin Isn’t a Blockbuster Weight-Loss Drug

27 days ago

As I have said before, I want to point all of my readers interested in diet and health to Peter Attia’s podcasts (“The Drive”). Peter and I have similar perspectives, and where we differ, I agree with him rather than myself. One way in which I can contribute, even given what Peter has done with his podcast is by shining a spotlight on a few key things in the wealth of information Peter and his guests provide. In #33, Peter’s interview with Rudy Leibel, I was fascinated by their discussion of why Leptin did not turn out to be the blockbuster weight-loss drug that Pharma hoped it would be. There is a mechanistic reason and an evolutionary reason.

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On the Oppression of Women

29 days ago

Melinda Gates’s book The Moment of Lift comes under criticism from Lily Meyer in her NPR blog post “’The Moment Of Lift’ Is More Of A Whisper Than A Call To Action” for not being strident enough—and for focusing on other dimensions of women’s empowerment than abortion rights. But I, for one, am glad to have a book that tries to speak to those with a wide range of different political and religious views.And, in addition to her message that women need to be treated better (the stories about the horrors of child marriage are especially powerful), Melinda Gates has another crucial message that should not be missed: individuals and communities have to

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Maria Popova: How Pythagoras and Sappho Radicalized Music and Revolutionized the World

March 13, 2021

For 15 years, I have been spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each month to keep Brain Pickings going. It has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. If this labor makes your life more livable in any way, please consider aiding its sustenance with a donation. Your support makes all the difference.

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Miles Confronts a Freedom-of-Speech Issue; The Roots of Anti-Semitism

March 11, 2021

Teaching Assistant: The student clearly meant no harm, but this post has me worried that significant offense could be taken since it treads on an uber-touchy topic with at least some degree of clumsiness. I wonder if we should hide this one just to make sure no hackles unintentionally get raised. Miles: I am torn between the sensibleness of your suggestion and a commitment to freedom of speech. I think I come down on the side of freedom of speech.  How about this for a solution? What if both you and I add in public comments pointing out how to say the content with more grace? Then rather than smushing speech, we are helping teach how to talk about sensitive subjects while giving a minimum of offense consistent with being able to talk about issues. By the way, I assume that this was an MLK

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