Socratic Form Microscopy

Link Post – February 2019

by Zach Jacobi in Link Post

Shinzō Abe has made increasing the participation of women in the workforce one of the key planks in his economic recovery plan. This is complicated by the frankly bonkers amount of work that women have to do as soon as they have kids in Japan – work men often cannot help with because they are expected to be in the office for 16 hours at a time. In addition to the normal tasks parents in North America expect (cooking, cleaning, etc.), parents in Japan have to do things like launder the linens their children use at school, fill out exhaustive diaries documenting everything their children do at home, and sign off on every piece of homework. I sometimes feel like someone needs to hijack the public-address system in Japan and play “work smart not hard” on repeat for as long as it takes for the message to sink in.

A brand new Norwegian Air 737 Max 8 had to make an emergency landing in Iran right before US sanctions were reimposed. It’s been trapped in Iran ever since, because Norwegian Air needs a special state department waiver to import replacement parts into Iran (aircraft parts are covered by the sanctions) and the state department, like most of the US government, just spent a month shut down.

Atul Gawande just tweeted out some fascinating information about mortality in Massachusetts. In the graphs, you can see Spanish Flu and HIV/AIDs (causing above trend deaths in 1918 and 1985 to 2002 respectively), as well as the recent upswing in opioid poisoning deaths (classified as injuries). Opioid poisonings seem most common among non-Hispanic whites, which has led African-American and (especially) Hispanic life expectancies to surpass white life expectancies. One troubling fact: the mortality rate for people with more than 13 years of education is a full third that of people with only high school or less. This is true across all age cohorts.

Even if you use no Google apps, your devices will communicate with Google something like 100,000 times a week, complicating any effort to cut the technology giant out of your life.

The Council of Economic Advisors is effective because it has no official power. This means it ends up staffed by people really passionate about economics, instead of people passionate about political power. Economists – even economists who disagree with each other – tend to hold pretty similar positions on major issues (see, for example, the paucity of economists willing to support tariffs or occupational licensing, two popular policies), so they can present a united lobbying front and occasionally persuade presidents to favour policies that make more economic sense.

Rich people don’t always have time to go pick up their yachts. When they don’t some lucky volunteer crew gets all their expenses paid as they sail it to the owner.

Death rates are mostly going down (except for the aforementioned opioid poisonings) but one other notable exception is car-related fatalities. Experts blame the increase in deaths on SUVs and trucks, which kill a lot of pedestrians. Both have a flat front and are higher off the ground, which results in more of any impact being transferred to the body of pedestrians. SUVs and trucks are where the whole US auto market is going, so we should expect to see deaths continue to rise until self-driving cars are introduced or regulators intervene to force some sort of standards for pedestrian safety (the latter seems unlikely).

Why do trains in the US suck so much? Well part of it is incredibly onerous safety standards, which are far stricter than used anywhere else. Now the Federal Railroad Association is modernizing the rules and bringing them more in line with European regulations, which should result in more economies of scale when purchasing rolling stock (making it cheaper) and lighter rolling stock (which will be cheaper to run). This is a big win for “a small wonky group of urbanist writers and policy experts”.