Links: Writers and media, private-school hypocrisies, the fear of ideas, and more!

* “Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene:” Detailed, hilarious, amazing.

* “Beware of Books! A new moralism is gripping the literary world, treating grownups like children.” I’m surprised more writers don’t decide to market themselves as “the writer they don’t want you to read.” It’s also possible that the most interesting material is being self-published, leaving the big publishers with conformism.

* “Hackers, Mason Jars, and the Psychedelic Science of DIY Shrooms.”

* The Dr. Seuss thing is really about bad and over long copyright, which is probably a better framing than the usual. t

* Moore’s Law for everything, by Sam Altman, a very useful and interesting piece, but, as often happens, I’m struck by the fact that we can’t really get to some of the low-hanging fruit today, like dramatically liberalizing zoning laws. We could have a much less expensive world right now, but we don’t, for purely legal and political reasons. Let me also lay out a slightly pessimistic case: AI continues to do cool things at the margins, yet, like nuclear fusion power plants, it’s always a few years away from transformative effects. We keep getting it almost working right, but not quite getting there, and so the true transformative potential is much further out than appears right now. I’d like Sam’s vision to be the correct one.

* Why Some of the Worst Attacks on Social Science Have Come From Liberals, from 2015 but anticipates the last six years.

* “‘We’re going to lose fast’: U.S. Air Force held a war game that started with a Chinese biological attack.” Notice: “[T]he Pentagon was largely distracted fighting counterterrorism and counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades.” Let’s hope the saber rattling remains saber rattling. But, also, “European countries send warships to South China Sea in Beijing pushback.” So who knows? Let’s not find out.

* Bryan Caplan on social desirability bias (SDB) and other matters.

* “Oregon Is Blazing a Psychedelic Trail: A very promising mental health experiment is taking shape in the West.”

* “Measuring Teaching Quality Higher Education.”

* Scenius, or Communal Genius.

* “The Substack controversy’s bigger story.” Also, in separate Substack news: “Writers who can command a paying audience have heretofore been significantly underpaid. That points to the real reason why the media has reason to fear Substack: it’s not that Substack will compete with existing publications for their best writers, but rather that Substack makes it easy for the best writers to discover their actual market value.”

3 responses

  1. Wow, RE Dr Seuss, Matt Yglesias is a really smart fellow, but he must have misunderstood a key aspect of copyright law. I almost feel bad for him. Death + 70 only starts for authors who have published things after 1978. Before 1978, it’s 95 years and ONLY IF the author or author’s estate has renewed the copyright. See https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain

    In the case of Dr. Seuss, most of his works were published prior to 1978. Mulberry Street goes into the public domain in 2032 (not 2061 as Yglesias implies).

    Another very important point. If the work was published before Jan 1 1964 inside the US, and the author or author’s estate did not renew copyright, it falls into the public domain. It used to be hard to verify renewals, but now a database search makes it pretty easy. https://exhibits.stanford.edu/copyrightrenewals

    ON another note, my publishing company is hunting out orphaned works and digitizing them for distribution and low cost sale. I’ll send you an announcement when the first one is ready. It’s a doozy!

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  2. Sorry to go off on a rant. I love the idea of substack, but McCardle oversimplifies things (as usual). The reason some people succeed on substack is because they already had a prominent position in the media to begin with. So Yglesias charges 80/year for his substack (which is fine, but I could never afford that). But I suspect people are subscribing because they knew him previously from American Prospect, Slate or Vox (btw, I have been following his posts since the early 2000s!)

    Perhaps some lesser known people who charge less will gain a following through substack, but my guess is that most of the commercially successful substack authors had a previous journalism gig or have a university position. All this shows to me is that substack will provide better rewards to people who somehow no longer have left a prominent media spot. Which is wonderful, but hardly the panacea for journalists and writers.

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  3. (Once more — indulge me).I forgot the gist of McCardle’s substack article, which is cancel culture gone awry. She offers the spectre of activists pressuring the platform to drop controversial writers. Well, there may be a case or two of that happening, but for the most part many of these platforms have a pretty liberal policy about authors (at least at the start). They recognize that substack authors are writing to their niche — which might seem weird or hostile to outsiders.

    The far bigger problem in my mind is being vulnerable to corporate SLAPP lawsuits. Major news media have libel insurance and onstaff counsel; substack individuals for the most part lack that expertise and are very vulnerable to those kinds of attacks. At a blogger’s meeting, I once suggested that somebody needs to offer to bloggers an insurance plan against SLAPP lawsuits I have a non-premium not-paid subscription to HEATED which is a great journalism blog about climate change activism https://heated.world/ . The accomplished journalist who does it Emily Atkin writes frequently in a negative way about corporations; she could easily be sued into submission even if the facts support her

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