Happy Friday! Here are eight great things I read this week.
All over the world, people are working less -- much less:
I love this line about scarcity from Matt Ridley:
That fossil fuels are finite is a red herring. The Atlantic Ocean is finite, but that does not mean that you risk bumping into France if you row out of a harbor in Maine. The buffalo of the American West were infinite, in the sense that they could breed, yet they came close to extinction. It is an ironic truth that no nonrenewable resource has ever run dry, while renewable resources -- whales, cod, forests, passenger pigeons -- have frequently done so.
Doomed to repeat
Here's Yale economist Robert Shiller on bubbles:
Given humans' "Irrational Exuberance," are bubbles inevitable?
I think the really bubbly phenomena come with the advent of news media and free markets. I've suggested that we need people to observe bubbles and construct monetary policy and regulatory policy around them. But I don't think that we are about to eliminate them. They're going to keep coming back, in a different form, with a different story.
Then we haven't learned our lesson?
We have not. In fact, that's one of the themes of the third edition. It is part of the human condition. I think it can be influenced by policy but there is a tendency for people to run in herds. It's not altogether bad, either! Even war brings innovations. Not that I'm in favor of wars, but I'm saying the space program that we have now came out of the rocket science developed in wars.
California's drought is getting disastrous:
Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year megadrought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.
Here's a 1992 proposal on how to divert water from Alaska to California. It'd cost at least $249 billion:
The Governor envisions a coastal subsea aqueduct beginning in southeast Alaska and extending approximately 1,400 miles to northern California. At that point the aqueduct would be routed inland to Lake Shasta, where the water would enter the State's distribution system. As currently envisioned, the pipeline would tap one or more of the rivers in southeast Alaska and divert approximately 4 million acre-feet of water annually.
He had the courage to admit he was wrong, and to change, a quality which many people at that level, who have accomplished that much, lack. You don't see many people at that level who will change directions even though they should. He wasn't beholden to anything except a set of core values. Anything else he could walk away from. He could do it faster than anyone I'd ever seen before. It was an absolute gift. He always changed. Steve had this ability to go through a learning curve quickly, more quickly than anybody I've known, about such a wide variety of things.
Shane Parrish tells you how to read a book:
- You need to read one book at a time.
- You need to mark up the book while you're reading it. Questions. Thoughts. And, more importantly, connections.
- At the end of each chapter, without looking back, write some notes on the main points/arguments/take-aways. Then look back and augment that.
- When you're done with the book, take out a blank sheet of paper and explain the core ideas/arguments of the book to yourself. (Where you have problems, go back and review your notes.)
- Put the book down for a week.
- Pick the book back up, reread all of your notes/highlights/marginalia/etc. Time is a good filter -- what's still important? Note this in the inside of the cover with a reference to the page number.
The best argument for raising wages is to cut down on employee turnover, which is massively expensive:
As the employment picture improves, companies are focusing more on retaining workers, largely because replacing them is costly. The median cost of turnover for most jobs is about 21% of an employee's annual salary, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. And it can cost, on average, some $3,341 to hire a new employee, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Have a great weekend.