Former software entrepreneur, I now advise businesses, play the stock market, and attempt non-fiction writing

bfinn's Comments

162 benefits of coronavirus

Indeed, I looked at Trump's approval rating over time and it's been about average for US presidents with little pandemic effect. Possibly the US is a bit of an outlier in this regard though, or it's a bit early for an assessment.

Because the ultimate Covid death toll will be a stark, objective measure of performance relative to other countries, I suspect later in the year it will be harder for voters anywhere to maintain illusions about how well or badly their country has handled the pandemic. (That said, much is not really down to the leaders, as no-one can really be expected to have known how best to handle it, given the limited information early on and the variety of strategies that have been tried. I have little doubt though that Trump's decision-making has been particularly poor.)

162 benefits of coronavirus

Indeed I think it will accelerate this issue, though maybe not resolve it.

In the UK, and no doubt elsewhere, universities have cancelled courses for the rest of the year, or are making them online-only, but refusing to refund students; which will make students acutely aware of what value for money they're getting, or not.

That said I did read somewhere the observation that as degrees are as much about status & signalling as actual learning, it may make little difference. People will still prefer the prestige of an Ivy League or Oxbridge education if they can get it. That said, that prestige is rather bound up with physical attendance in grand surroundings, surrounded by top-notch professors etc.

162 benefits of coronavirus

I've just been through it all. A great resource - with harms too. Glad to see I had thought of almost all the long-term benefits (!), but have added a few more from it here, and thought of several further points too.

162 benefits of coronavirus

Great, thanks, I'll check it out.

Dying for a day at the beach

Thanks for the feedback here and on Facebook. I've just revised the post as a result - tightened up my arguments and added a few new points.

Dying for a day at the beach

A significant further thought:

The above calculation is done on life expectancies, treated as expected utilities; but human psychology doesn't work like that:

Arguably in Chris's particular case she may lose somewhat less than half her quality of life by conforming with the lockdown. In which case her behaviour looks irrational in life expectancy terms.

But Chris's behaviour is rational if she is risk-seeking. She prefers gambling her life (and perhaps others') by going to the beach, to the alternative of suffering a sure loss of quality of life by staying at home. This is normal behaviour in prospect theory - the same as a 'desperado' who, faced with arrest and inevitable jailtime, prefers the higher risk, less certain, lower expected utility option of stealing a car, shooting at cops etc. in the hope of getting away.

I.e. Chris, a 75-year-old desperado, is risking death to avoid imprisonment (and for some people, solitary confinement).

Dying for a day at the beach

Layard is one of the top happiness economists.

Indeed the Guardian review of the book was dreadful. I almost wrote a point-by-point refutation of it (but no-one would read it). Turns out the reviewer is a self-described Marxist with a website called 'Leninology' so has a political axe to grind. As is hinted at towards the end of the review - for Layard advised the Blair government (on increasing mental health funding), and Blairites are the enemy.

Quite why a national newspaper would commission & publish such a misleading, bilious, partisan piece is beyond me.

Dying for a day at the beach

Presumably they need to keep public transport operating for key workers, e.g. medical staff, supermarket staff etc. So if it's available then others will use it to get to parks.

Dying for a day at the beach

Yes there's lots of research & data on this, particularly in recent years. The best summary is the new book Can We Be Happier? by Richard Layard. The largest factors (from memory) are health (especially mental - much larger than physical health), not being unemployed, having a partner, income. The most common measures are happiness and satisfaction with life, on a 0-10 self-reported scale.

Indeed people may lack perspective; so there's lots of work on how objective these self-reports are, what precisely they measure, whether they are absolute or relative to other people (in the same city or country) or relative to people's own past or whatever. I think the current consensus is that they are largely absolute measures.

Not sure (without looking up) what magnitude of changes to someone's life it would take to halve these numbers, but I have little doubt depression could do it.

Also (on a slightly technical point) most people reckon there are states worse than death, so death should be located not at 0/10 but maybe around 2/10. Which means halving your quality of life as compared with death (as an alternative) would only require a reduction from say 8/10 to 5/10 (since 5/10 to 2/10, the same distance, is a reduction to death).

Dying for a day at the beach

Interesting and curious. I wonder if this is partly due to health only being one aspect of quality of life (happiness/life satisfaction).

Also I wonder whether the framing of the question is important. People have trouble thinking about this stuff clearly.

More understandable with $ trade-offs (people being funny about money).

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