What I’m Reading: August 24th, 2016

  • Sad news out of Italy last night. The NYTimes has a story surveying the damage and the pictures are mortifying. It’s easy to forget how powerless man is at times in the face of the force of nature. One particular problem with earthquakes is the difficulty predicting their occurrence, even at the point of emergency, short-notice, final warning. Nate Silver has a chapter in the “Signal and the Noise” discussing the state of the predictive capabilities of science in predicting earthquakes. The reality of the field is poor understanding and lackluster accuracy. The World Economic Forum has a post sumerizing this state of affairs briefly that’s a good primer on the topic.

  • Getting rich is hard. Staying rich may be harder. Via HumanProgress.org & economist Mark Perry, some figures and a chart:
    • 50 percent of Americans find themselves among the top 10 percent of income-earners for at least one year during their working lives.

    • Over 11 percent of Americans will be counted among the top 1 percent of income-earners (i.e.: people making at minimum $332,000 per annum) for at least one year.

    • Some 94 percent of Americans who reach “top 1 percent” income status will enjoy it for only a single year. Approximately 99 percent will lose their “top 1 percent” status within a decade. 

    • Now consider the top 400 U.S. income-earners—a far more exclusive club than the top 1 percent. Between 1992 and 2013, 72 percent of the top 400 retained that title for no more than a year. Over 97 percent retained it for no more than a decade. 

  • The Daily Signal notes the long half-life Presidential agency staffing has in policy outcomes. Along these lines, I’m reminded of a talk Arthur Brooks of AEI gave to a room of young, ambitious libertarians-myself included- where he suggested that if he had his way as “strategic czar” or something of the like, he would have us all “burrow” deep into the administrative state to maximize our effectiveness in fostering social change. The concept of “The Government vs. The State” is deeply underappreciated; it’s well summarized here.
  • Scott Winship is out with a seminal paper looking at the poverty and employment data to examine the effects of Bill Clinton era Welfare reform, which is turning 20 years. He finds the law had a fair big upside and despite beginning with different priors, he concluded it is difficult to spot downsides. He discussed the study at the Cato Insitute and debated scholars with differing conclusions on Monday; I’ll link the video from the event once it’s posted. Key charts detailing Winships conclusions below:

  • My good friends at Free Think Media have launched into television documentaries and put together some outstanding content. See below and follow their always outstanding work:
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