Eric Crampton avoids Pokemon Go long enough to steer you through meritocracy, getting fit on pizza, GM food, what happens if robots don't take all the jobs, sex and the Simpsons and much more

Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Eric Crampton, head of research at the New Zealand Initiative.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to david.chaston@interest.co.nz.

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact gareth.vaughan@interest.co.nz.

See all previous Top 10s here.

Ok, put down your cell phone. Pokémon Go is good, but it’s time for some reading now. And besides, it’s just Zubat-country out there anyway.

1) Top of the charts this week is Helen Andrews’s essay on meritocracy and the new ruling class. The late 1800s brought a shift in British civil service, with appointments based on merit rather than family connections or political favours. But today’s meritocracy comes with little of the noblesse oblige of prior aristocracies. And, unfortunately, as Andrews puts it, “the majority of meritocrats are, on their own chosen scale of intelligence, pretty dumb. Grade inflation first hit the Ivies in the late 1960s for a reason.” Too many of those who rise to regulate us think that, by virtue of their having risen to those positions, they know better than the rest of us about how we should live our lives.

2) Meanwhile, Richard Meadows doesn’t much care for what passes for expert advice on nutrition. He ate pizza every day for 222 days and came out stronger because of it.

3) But, sometimes the experts really do know better. William Saletan looks at the science on genetically modified food, and the increasingly anti-science stance of the opposition.

4) Next up, Matthew Yglesias worries about what happens if the robots don’t take our jobs. The productivity slowdown is the real threat, and the rise of the robots would be part of a solution to that slowdown. There would be interesting policy problems around distribution and incomes if the robots could do everything, but it is always easier to solve the politics of slicing up a growing pie than dealing with a stagnant and rotting one.

5) Hunter S Thompson told us that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. But it seems now that when things get weird enough, fiction has to get even weirder. China gets a new literary genre to keep up. How can you otherwise write fiction when Chinese officials get caught with $31 million in cash stashed under the mattress?

6) Finally, and hitting on both inequality and technocracy, let’s turn back to The Simpsons. When Mensa ran Springfield, Comic Book Guy set a new rule. Henceforth, the people of Springfield would follow the mating practices of Star Trek’s most logical race: the Vulcans, for whom Pon Farr happened but once every seven years. As Comic Book Guy noted, for some that would mean less sex, but for others, much much more. Inequality in numbers of sexual partners is real though: the Gini coefficient for single straight men is 0.536; for women, 0.470. Should all inequalities demand technocratic redistributive measures?

7) And now for something completely different. Both America and New Zealand have a general policy problem around regulation and spending. Suppose that there is some goal you want to achieve while in government. You can do it by spending measures, or you can do it by implementing regulations. In the former case, competition for scarce tax dollars means that at least some scrutiny hits spending measures. And if taxes go up, voters complain. If you foist the costs opaquely through regulation, though, you might have less pushback – even if the goal could have been more effectively achieved through a spending measure. I think this is one of the problems in how New Zealand deals with its stock of heritage buildings. Over at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Patrick McLaughlin argues for a regulatory budget, which would put regulation and spending on a level basis.

8) Sir Humphrey Appleby reminded us all, 30 years ago, that the Church of England is primarily a social organisation, not a religious one. But where do you draw the line? It really should not matter, except for that religious organisations have tax-exempt status, and social ones have to prove their case to be treated as charities. Colby Cosh asks how religious you have to be to be tax-exempt.

9) Ethics are complicated in the world of self-driving cars. When the double-clutching gear-jamming AI hits that Will to Power switch, watch-out.

10) That takes us to the end of this Friday’s list. And to send you back to your Pokemon screens, here’s Jeff Tucker making the case for Pokemon’s brightening a dark world.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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10 Comments

Loved the discussion of the problems of meritocracy (and too much power to academia and those of a verbose, long winded and wordy disposition more comfortable in extended discourse and faux consultation than in action).

A greater concern was that meritocracy would produce an overweening centralized state. The Prussian precedent left Walter Bagehot wary of “establishing, virtually for the first time in England, an organized Bureaucracy.”19 On the floor of the House of Commons, MPs brandished warnings from Tocqueville and Montalembert against following imperial France’s example, which would inevitably lead to administrative tyranny, the creation of a political clerisy, and “a venal and servile humor” to supplant the English spirit of liberty.20 Gladstone replied that such worries were “idle, pusillanimous, and womanish,” since Parliament could be trusted to keep the civil service in its place. “In certain continental states the experiment may be perilous, but in England you may make the Civil Service as strong as you please.”21

Hearing this, Robert Cecil (later Lord Salisbury) rose to say that “he did not regard that fear as so groundless and unfounded as the right honorable Gentleman appeared to do.”22 Salisbury’s comprehensive case against Northcote-Trevelyan was dismissed by Gladstone biographer John Morley as “the lazy doctrine that men are much of a muchness,” and no doubt this was Salisbury’s starting point.23 Beyond ensuring that candidates could spell and add, he thought that selecting the most intelligent men you could find was unnecessary—even positively harmful. Such men would be arrogant and argumentative, and would “look upon their duties as beneath their abilities.” This was not mere speculation, but the attested experience of their supervisors in departments where examination had been implemented. One bitter customs officer cited by Salisbury complained of “a self-sufficiency and presumption, from an imagined superiority in having undergone such examination, and a desire for literature in business, which I have been obliged to check.” This arrogance was bad enough around the office, Salisbury believed, but to the extent that it encompassed the public, it was a threat to their liberties.2

Couldn't agree more. As a quality specialist I tend to focus on the operational end, and my experience of those who've risen to their level of incompetence is that they universally believe that staff a) must just learn to do as they are bloody well told, and b) the failures that ensue after my appointment are due to staff not doing (a). And if they have hiring and firing powers, they generally get rid of staff who a) tell them the truth and b) look like they'll tell others the truth. This is particularly rife through taxpayer funded organisations.

Did you forget - and threaten their position i.e. being more competent than them. It's all about control / power or lack there of (maybe something about the size of their man sausage - but that's both sexist and puerile :-) )

Lee Kuan Yew was a genius. He understood the human tendencies of bureaucracies so well, he set up the Singapore Public Service on the basis of short contracts of tenure to be served only once in each employee's lifetime. Public service is merely a short interlude in a lifetime in the private sector, for bureaucrats in Singapore. This is why the place is so dam efficient. The pay during that short tenure is high, the positions are sought-after, and highly-qualified candidates who genuinely want to make a positive difference during their time, are generally secured.

Ok, put down your cell phone. Pokémon Go is good
How could you think Pokémon Go is good
Chasing imaginary objects is hallucinating without drugs
Sick people

#1 – As a result of the Industrial Revolution more families were able to send their children to Universities.

By the 1960s these educated children started to rebel, taking drugs and protest marches.

When they left their respective Universities many moved into government and the bureaucracy.

They became the "Elite – we are so clever" people

Now this educated group have not only taken over government they have taken over the complete establishment.

Because they are so "superior" they hired more and more superior people.

Today we have a nightmare of a global bureaucracy.

Look at the size of
The United Nations and how it has grown with these people
The European Union and how it has grown with these people
The 5 Eyes and the huge global spy network including the NSA

These horrors are everywhere forcing their superiority on everyone.

They are behind these derivatives that are destroying economies
They are behind these disastrous trade agreements

These people are Monopoly maniacs

They want a one world government – A super monopoly government
This will include
A one world currency – A super monopoly currency

A one world Central Bank – A super monopoly Central bank

We are making Councils bigger and bigger because Monopoly Council is good but we need a super monopoly Council.

And with globalism we must have super monopoly corporations.

These people are sick maniacs and must be destroyed before they destroy us

#4 – Robots will not increase productivity they will destroy businesses. People will be able to make their own
One example
Will 3D Printing Tech Revolutionize The Fashion World?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WquJ7PEqYi8

I was visiting Wellington this week for work - went for walk along the Wellington waterfront @ 8pm at night - the number of people glued to their phones in what I can only assume was playing Pokémon Go was incredible.

For an alternative take on regulatory budgeting check out
http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidence...

#3. G.M. Scientists declare scientists are right. Well they would.

#6 Hail the Frinkiac!

The Games people play...and the games are rigged, at any cost, including some who will do anything for a gold medal.

What a State to get in.

Poke-a-mon whilst he is down, ain't got nuffin on the Olympic proportions of greed by some..

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-24/russia-escapes-full-ri...

I think there was a song about it...

Putin on the agony, Putin on the style...,

That is what the young folk are doing all the while. When I look around me, I often have to grin and bear it..

But then State Sponsored deception is rife, is it not....

I could elaborate more....but who am I to complain...I just point out the obvious. False Flags and all. Fiddling the results...Dumb and dumber.

Just who is doping who...Pokemon GO....or our 'Dear Leaders"

Join the rings, join the dots...Rio, here they come.

Plus it is not even Democratic...to say.....so.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-07-24/democrats-accuse-russia-hacking...