What caused the post-WWII baby boom, and where might it recur?

It ought to be one of the biggest mysteries in social science. The standard story that it was due to “the economy” ignores that the correlation between the economy and birthrates is almost always the opposite. If it’s something specific to economic growth at that particular development stage, why don’t we see it in developing countries going through a similar stage today? If it is a result of war, why wasn’t there a similar boom after World War I? There was an uptick in the fertility rate in the years after the war, but it immediately went back on its long term decline trend.

We know that, outside France and Austria, the baby boom was due to an increase in marriage, with more people marrying and them marrying at younger ages, rather than an increase in births within married couples at a given age.(See https://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol38/40/38-40.pdf) Looking for areas where conditions would mimic those in the West in 1945, we should look for:

1. The economic conditions are most comparable to The U.S./Europe in the 1930s.
2. The age at first marriage is relatively high and can come down, and this, not widespread use of contraception, is the reason fertility rates are relatively low. Once couples marry they have relatively more children than married couples in the West.
3. Out-of wedlock births are low.
4. Fertility rates have been stagnant for a while.

Do these conditions apply to parts of the Arab world?

What would a Futarchy do about Prostitution, Gambling, and Recreational Drugs?

Robin Hanson writes in a recent blog post:

In a futarchy with a simple value function based on basic outcomes like population, health, and wealth, then voting on values but betting on beliefs would probably mostly legalize things like prostitution, gambling, recreational drugs, immigration, and big business. It would probably even let prisoners pick torture.

I wonder specifically about prostitution, gambling, and recreational drugs. Assume the futarchic system is smart enough to account for the fact that underground commerce is not normally counted in GDP. In the case of prostitution, futarchy would favor it, as it’s trade and doesn’t seriously harm the economic production capacities of either prostitute or client, so long as appropriate std regulations are in place. Gambling would be a different animal. It’s economically useless activity which is based on the irrationality of the consumers, and it would depend on whether this irrational preference to play is taken into account. You could argue that it ought to be done, else almost any type of consumption could be dismissed as an “irrational preference.” Even then, it would have to consider the ruinous effects on the productivity of gambling addicts, which would not be cancelled out by any increase in the productivity of gambling winners. The best policy IMO would be a paternalistic monopoly system, allow gamblers to buy “lotto tickets” where 10% of the money is taken to compensate winners and account for transaction costs, the gambler who loses can either get the 90% plus two years of interest back in two years or have it back immediately along with a two-year long ban on further participation in the scheme. This way, no gambler could suffer ruinous losses, the maximum any would lose would be 10% of what they could invest. You can think of ways around this by loaning the gambler money, but since gamblers tend to be very bad credit risks, you shouldn’t expect many to try it.

I think it would keep harsh laws against most drugs and adopt harsh penalties and perhaps even prohibition on alcohol, which contrary to common misconception did reduce consumption and alcoholism-induced deaths significantly. Yes, it resulted in a few deaths from tainted moonshine, but these were a drop in the bucket compared to the many deaths which would have occurred had alcoholics been able to buy their poison cheaply and legally. Since even relatively benign drugs like marijuana provide an alternative to participation in the workforce, this provides another reason you expect futarchy to ban them.

 

Fun with Anthropic Reasoning and Many-Worlds

God creates two universes, one which operates according to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the other some non-MWI interpretation. In both universes, an observer rolls a die and, if the result is anything else than six, paints his house red and stops rolling the die. If he rolls a six, he paints it blue and then rolls it again the next day. One hundred days later, God appears to the inhabitants of every house in every world and asks them to guess if they are in the MWI or non-MWI universe. If they guess correctly that they are in MWI universe, they receive a reward of 1$. If they guess correctly that they are in the non-MWI universe, they get a reward of 10$. If you are an observer in this situation, what is your guess?

Second variation: Like the first, except that God sends a tornado to kill the observer if he paints his house red.

Third variation: Like the first, except that there is only one universe, and God flipped a coin and created one or the other.

Fourth Variation: Like the third, except that God sends a tornado to kill the observer if he paints his house red.

Fifth Variation: Like the third, except now God and his coin is used as a metaphor for the correct theory, based on your physics knowledge you think there is an equal probability of one or the other being true. An experiment is proposed which will definitively answer the question. You are offered 1$ if you correctly guess that the experiment will establish that MWI is true, and 10$ if you correctly guess that non-MWI is true.

Sixth Variation: Like the fifth, except that painting your house red triggers a false vacuum which destroys you and the universe.

In which variation would you go for the 1$ versus the 10$, and why? Is there an answer that is always correct in all the variations?

WWII as the peak of the age of heroic warfare

The warfare in the world of Star Wars, excepting the whole Jedi-swordplay stuff, maps closely onto WWII-era warfare.

Star Destroyers -> Aircraft carriers

Frigates -> Battleships and auxiliary ships for the aircraft carriers

TIE Fighters ect. -> Piloted aircraft

Death Star -> Maybe the Manhattan project?

Despite having seemingly human-like robots, it never occurs to any of the combatants to have them piloting the fighters,(though they do exist to support the human pilots for some reason) nor does it occur to anyone to have them be piloted remotely.(Though in the prequels the ships were piloted by droids, it never occurs to any of the other factions to employ robot fighters) The Death Star has a massive laser, but it doesn’t occur to anybody to use a (much smaller) massive laser to poke holes in enemy capital ships. And like most science fiction warfare where you can go FTL, it never occurs to anybody to us this to create a kinetic weapon, though perhaps “hyperspace” only allows you to exit at close to zero velocity.

Thinking about how WWIII would go down today, WWII era warfare was probably the peak of the heroic age of warfare, where one man in an airplane can drop the bomb on the aircraft carrier which wins the battle which wins the war. It was mechanized warfare but the machines were always under the direct control of a human. If you were killed by a tank you’d know that there were men inside the tank aiming it, reloading it, driving it around. If you were killed by a bomb dropped from an airplane you’d know that it was piloted by a human, with a human looking through the bombsite, pulling the lever. If you were killed by artillery it was a little different as the man who fired it might be miles away and not visible to you, still, you’d know he was in the battle area and might reasonably be able to visit the area he shelled if the battle went the right away. Contrast that with the experience of a crew in a submarine, living in this artificial environment under water, arming an ICBM whose target they would never see. That’s harder to make a heroic movie about. On land there’d be more human-to-human gunfights and tank battles and encircling cities and all that, but the soldiers would fight with the thought in the back of their minds that it could all be for naught if a tactical nuke was headed their way. You’d have drone warfare where two guys are sitting in rooms, piloting a drone or debugging the program which autopilots the drone. In WWII you had radar, but radar told you that there was a machine containing a human heading toward you. In drone-drone warfare, you’d be staring at the GUI of one machine to remotely control another machine in order to bring down another machine. Much more impersonal and less heroic. So I don’t think the parallels with WWII were just a matter of lack of imagination.

Core/Fringe

You can draw a distinction between the Core, Fringe, and Middle in the modern world:

Core: Wall Street, D.C., Hollywood, politics in developed countries, upper-level military in developed countries, cutting edge companies, Harvard.

Middle: Suburbs, Middle America, the working and middle class in the developed countries, everyday occupations.

Fringe: Developing countries, military expeditions to developing countries, survivalism and rustic living, black and grey markets, impoverished areas of developed countries, political ideologies and cultural traditions not popular with developed country elites, autocratic developing country politics, Antarctica.

In science fiction’s vision of the future, you can draw a similar Core/Fringe distinction:

Core: Ecumenopolis, interactions with highly intelligent AIs, high-level government and politics on the most developed and powerful planets, galaxy-spanning corporations, Earth as the Galaxy’s capital.

Fringe: Newly terraformed planets, underdeveloped planets, aliens resistant to the technology and culture of more powerful species, autocratic alien species, interactions with robots as menial laborers, expeditions to poorly-known parts of the Galaxy, war on distant planets.

Science fiction seems to have a bias towards the Fringe in its storytelling. Often the work starts with the character in the Core being “bored” with the Core and seeking out adventure in the Fringe, where the remainder of the story takes place. Or it starts with a character in the Fringe and features a chapter or two in the Core, where the Fringe-originating character feels uncomfortable and is happy to escape.

Imagine that many facets of industrial society were correctly predicted by pre-modern writers, but that they focused mostly on the Fringe. A book would start in suburban America with the main protagonist being bored and seeking adventure in the Fringe, it not occurring to him to seek adventure in Hollywood or Wall Street. Corporations would often be seen but usually as an external force oppressing the protagonist, rarely would the protagonist be inside the corporation itself. Migration from the Core to the Fringe would be more common than the other way around. Portrayal of the hellish(to a pre-modern observer) density of modern Manhattan would occur, but rarely as a permanent setting, with most of the action taking place relatively close to nature. It would make sense to portray the Fringe more often than the Core, because pre-modern readers would be able to better identify with the Fringe than the Core. But this very thing makes the Fringe less interesting than the Core.

What are some works of science fiction that portray a far future taking place mainly in the Core? The Age of Em(not a work of science fiction obviously) does a good job of staying firmly in the Core, speaking mostly to the experience of ems,(who will dominate the world) and not to the experience of humans,(who will be on the Fringe of the world) yet this very fact was the subject of complaints that it should have focused more on humans and less on ems, who readers were less able to identify with.

Healthcare Prediction

In theory, the government could establish a single payer system and use it to mitigate the adverse selection problem in healthcare, preventing overutilization. It could also use its newfound monopsony power to reduce healthcare prices, leading to lower pay for doctors and healthcare bureaucrats. There are people who believe that this would happen were any of the Democrat single payer plans adopted. I wonder what they are smoking. Saying something is possible with single payer doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen, you need to look at who will actually be designing and running the system. And if you look at the Democratic candidates, all of them want more healthcare. One of their most common talking points is how people can’t get it due to “underinsurance,” i.e. people actually having an incentive not to use it. Yes, I’m sure there would be some committee to study overutilization(In the ACA there was the Independent Payment Advisory Board, since repealed with bipartisan support), but the overwhelming motivation of the bill will be to make sure no one ever has an incentive to second-guess healthcare. Might the Democrats try to favor pay providers less even as they demand more healthcare consumption? For all their egalitarian rhetoric, doctors are high-status experts and Democrats want to be seen as respecting high-status experts. See what happened with Washington:

“The whole debate was about the rate mechanism,” said Mr. Frockt, the state senator. “With the original bill, with Medicare rates [for the state’s public option], there was strong opposition from all quarters. The insurers, the hospitals, the doctors, everybody.”

Mr. Frockt and his colleagues ultimately raised the fees for the public option up to 160 percent of Medicare rates.

“I don’t think the bill would have passed at Medicare rates,” Mr. Frockt said. “I think having the Medicare-plus rates was crucial to getting the final few votes.”

Thus, my prediction, which does not depend on any particular policy being enacted:

The National Health Expenditure Accounts estimate of National Health Expenditures as a Percent of gross domestic product in 2027 will be greater than its estimate of 2017. Estimates for both years will be taken by the first year they both become publicly available: 90%

Pickle Ree Bias

In one of the SSC open threads it is posited that terrorism might result if climate change is really bad:

Climate change will be a disaster. Those worst affected will resort to war, terrorism, etc.. The average first world inhabitant will be drafted, and/or know people killed in terrorist incidents, or similar.

This seems implausible to me. The worst effected are going to be the ones without much power and economic resources; for this reason they won’t be able to threaten the first world militarily in conventional warfare. What about terrorism? If you ignore the “lone-wolf” style terrorism and look only at organized terror groups such as the IRA or the PLO, they always have the following:

1. A clearly defined group organized on ethnic or class lines which is supposedly being oppressed.
2. A clearly defined oppressor group.
3. A clearly defined goal.

Those most negatively impacted by climate change are not a clearly defined group, nor are those who caused the problem. It’s more fuzzy than notions of “class” in communism, where wage-earners and tenant farmers could easily be set against bosses and landlords across many countries. The goal is also unclear. The more likely scenario is that the very poorest will focus on surviving, begging for aid from the rich world, and, if they make war, will wage it against other very poor people they could conceivably beat. If there is a globalized ecoterror movement, it will be organized and led in the middle and high-income countries, much as the communist movement against the alleged evils of imperialist capitalism was led by middle-income Russia.

I think there’s a tendency to assume that if a group is screwed over by an action they will take violent action. Call it “pickle ree bias.” You see it in the failed predictions of crime and political instability due to the lopsided sex ratios in China, India, and South Korea. In that case you had the selfish decisions of one generation biting the next in the a**. I think part of this bias comes from the idea of karmic justice, people want to see the old farts who caused the problem suffering a crime wave they have only themselves to blame for. But for the low-status man who can’t find a wife, there’s no personal incentive to engage in crime; the police provide the same disincentive no matter the sex ratio.

You also see this in predictions of socialist revolution or racial conflict. Certainly both things are possible and indeed common in history, but the socialists or identarians who predict them often act as if they are inevitable. But even if the predictions of ever more horrid capitalism or ethnic oppression are correct, why should we assume the response should be violence rather than grovelling? Might the poor simply work harder to make ends meet, might the oppressed group work harder to quietly evade (rather than openly rebel against) the restrictions imposed by the oppressing group? In the case of emerging technologies such as genetic engineering, you hear that if the rich can afford them and the poor can’t, they will riot over the inequity. But if they aren’t rioting over current inequality, why would they riot over that?