My Faults My Own

To these ends…put aside fear for courage, and death for life,

when it is right to do so, until Universe’s end.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, artist, trader, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: July 5)

A collection of things that I was glad I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they’re interesting, not because I think they’re correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Spoiler-Free Review: Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (plus a Spoilerific section)

Blog: Popehat | The Fourth of July [rerun]

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The NBA’s Reopening Is a Warning Sign for the U.S. Economy — "If so many NBA players are pondering non-participation, how keen do you think those workers — none of whom are millionaire professional athletes — are about returning to the office?"

Comic: SMBC | Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Holism


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Blog: Market Design | Job market technology is diffusing slowly through the armed forces

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Tales from Trinidad barter

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Personal opinions on my Harvard courses

A prospective Harvard student wrote the other day asking for advice about CS+Math at Harvard, and (among other questions) asked if I'd share the courses I took to help them compare with their own plans. As always, I was happy to help. I figured it might also be useful to someone else to have an (admittedly idiosyncratic) sample of a Harvard CS+Math schedule on the Internet, so I'm posting it here, too.

note: There really isn't much more here than it says on the tin, so if you're not interested in that, you really can skip this post.


It should be obvious, but no one should take this as a prescription -- not everything was the right choice for me in hindsight, so it's definitely not exactly right for you. At best, it's a data point for people exactly like me, and at worst you should consider reversing the major takeaways.

I also feel compelled to pass along the best advice I received about picking a major, which

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Speculative preparedness

note: "Preparedness" is right there in the title, but this is an economic analysis for the next crisis, not personal preparedness advice for the current one.

Jeff Kaufman discusses an interaction between price controls and emergency preparedness:

Let's say you see a potential pandemic coming, and you produce a product that could be critical. Maybe you make respirator masks, maybe you make ventilators, maybe you make PCR test reagents. You can see that if you and your competitors don't ramp up production and the pandemic happens, there will be a shortage. What do you do?

[...]

[One] option is to ramp up production now, speculatively. Start paying workers extra to work longer shifts and run your assembly lines around the clock. Train extra workers. Find what you're bottlenecked on and figure out how to get that ramped up too. If the pandemic fears were overblown you lose a lot of money, but if the pandemic happens people need what you have so much that you can charge high prices. How much

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Donations 2019

For the sixth year, I remain committed to using at least 10% of what income I earn to support the organizations that I think best make the universe a better place, and to talking about it on this blog. Here are my thoughts at the end of 2019.

These specific organizations I'm supporting are, in relative terms, mostly unchanged from 2018. The biggest changes are:

  • Marginally more saving / investing for later donation opportunities (including the potential for political contributions in 2020).
  • Marginally less donor lottery.
  • The Good Food Institute replacing The Humane League.

note: I'm still working on some parts of this post with more details about these organizations and my thoughts, but wanted to get an early version out in case it was helpful to others making donation decisions before year-end. Watch this space for updates, maybe.


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Compared to years past, I spent relatively more time thinking about donations this year. This reflects a few things:

  • I'll be giving more as my income grows and my personal
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Elasticities, revisited

Hannes Malmberg commented on my review of Saez and Zucman in response to a point I made about the elasticity of capital supply:

I think you are confusing demand and supply elasticities of capital.

The revenue calculations hinge on the elasticity of capital supply, i.e., how fast capital supply rise with the interest rate (how much more do people decide to save).

The Piketty spiral, in contrast, hinges on the elasticity of capital demand, i.e., how fast the interest rate fall with increasing capital (i.e., how fast firms and companies switch away from using capital when it gets more expensive).

There is nothing theoretically preventing us from having an almost horizontal capital demand curve, and an almost vertical capital supply curve. In such a world, a capital tax raises a lot of revenue, but increasing the savings propensity increase the capital stock without reducing the interest rate. (...)

I think he is basically right, and I'll partially retract section 3A of my

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Review: The Triumph of Injustice

Or, the coming debate on moral incidence of taxes

You're going to hear a lot about the triumph of injustice in the next 6-12 months. Or rather, you're going to hear a lot about The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (2019).

For one thing, the two economists have signed on as economic advisors to 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has for years been putting questions of economics and notions of justice front-and-center. But more generally, economic justice is having a moment, and I prophesy that you'll hear more about it before you hear less.

So this is my first real attempt to understand exactly what kind of moment it is, in the best way I know how -- by writing. Specifically, by writing a review that unpacks TToI for non-economists. (I am an economist, but not the kind that helps p— I mean, not a macroeconomist.

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Everybody knows

One of the things I've appreciated about living abroad is that it's helped me better understand context that I used to be swimming in. Sometimes it's context on the breadth of the human condition, but sometimes it's just my daily lesson on filter bubbles.

Google knows enough at this point to show me SCMP articles about the MTR/Cathay Pacific thing (no I'm not going to link this, because my point is precisely that maybe five people reading this know enough not to have to look it up). If it was the MTA that had banned an American Airlines ad depicting a no seriously you don't know what goes here, do you?, then I'm near-certain that it'd be all over (my) Facebook. But no, I logged in today just to check, near-certain that I wouldn't find a single mention of it. I was right.

This isn't an objective fact about the world; it's a subjective fact about who I'm talking to. Somewhere, someone has a Facebook feed full of

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Adding HTTPS

My Faults My Own (and other rossry.net and r-y.io subdomains) are now available over HTTPS, with certificates from Let's Encrypt. (cf. https://blog.rossry.net/https)

The setup took nontrivial effort, so I've narrated it here for my or your future reference. I don't think there's anything technically novel here, and there may even be an HTTPS-setup guide for 2019 somewhere else that dominates mine for usefulness, but there wasn't one easy-to-find enough that I found it, so here we are.


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First, the dramatis personae:

Let's Encrypt (hereafter "LE"), a project of the nonprofit Internet Security Research Group, issues free TLS (née SSL) certificates; they recommend that site administrators with shell access use the LE client Certbot, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

My Faults My Own, and other rossry.net and r-y.io subdomain services, are happily hosted by Digital Ocean (this turns out not to matter), running nginx on Ubuntu 14.04. (Certbot supports many other servers and OS setups as

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