Links: Optimism is underrated, non-competes may be jettisoned, and more!

* “I’ve bludgeoned you with statistics in order to make a point: Pessimism about our future is unwarranted.” And, also: “If there is one lesson from the events of the past year, it is that open societies such as ours have an ability to adapt in a way that closed societies simply do not.” We have advantages and it seems that freaking out about what’s happening enables us to course-correct—which is one of those advantages. Did you know there’s an RSV vaccine from Moderna that appears to work—as do several other vaccines? Next winter’s respiratory virus season may be considerably better than this winter’s, and that’s great.

* How Elites Abandoned the Masses.

* “U.S. Moves to Bar Noncompete Agreements in Labor Contracts.” One of these very important policies that, like zoning reform, seems boring but is actually vital. It’s also consistent with the “optimism about the future” point, above.

* “The Truth about Demographic Decline:” most people want more kids than they feel they can afford to have. This is another instance of exclusionary American housing policy creating scarcity in many domains, including this one.

* “Exxon made ‘breathtakingly’ accurate climate predictions in 1970s and 80s: Oil company drove some of the leading science of the era only to publicly dismiss global heating.” We’ve had a pretty good idea that what has happened, would happen, and yet there’s a lot of chaff and dishonesty in the intellectual air.

* Battery-powered appliances sound very good. I have an (expensive) Breville induction stovetop that plugs into a standard 120V socket and it’s amazing. The gas stovetops are now essentially unused. The induction stove is so much faster than a gas stove, and I can’t imagine many people going back to gas, if they don’t have to. The culture-war stuff around these issues is mostly stupid. Focus on cooking, not signaling.

* “The energy crisis and Europe’s astonishing luck.” We’ll know more countries are serious when they break ground on nuclear reactors.

* Epistemological arguments about what “lying” is, among other interesting things.

* “So much of popular culture now offers a quite unexciting vision of what your mind and language might be capable of. I found [John Dunne] a brilliant antidote to that, a bulwark against a kind of anti-intellectualism.”

* “How DEI Is Supplanting Truth as the Mission of American Universities.” Depressing and detailed. Then again, regarding the link immediately above, it says: So much of popular culture now offers a quite unexciting vision of what your mind and language might be capable of.” It seems one could say something similar of universities today, but now people who are interested in what the mind and language might be capable of can find each other online, which wasn’t true not so long ago. Universities used to be among the few places one could find people interested in ideas. Here are some ideas about improving the climate in universities.

* “Man Need Sex and Violence, Not Top-Down ‘Meaning’.” Which is not the sort of thing one hears much of. But it might be true, or somewhat true. The Professor in the Cage is good on this.

Links: Houellebecq, old books (in the physical sense), progress in biology, and more!

* Why China loves some conservative philosophers and political scientists; this is distinct from a certain modern political party, which the article’s original headline doesn’t make clear, but I will. There’s also an interesting discussion between Bret Stephens and David Brooks on “The Party’s Over for Us. Where Do We Go Now?

* We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking. As the article says, children don’t actually want their parents’ old books, or those of other relatives. When someone passes, their books drift away, like dandelion seed in the wind.

* The Economist on Britain’s woes. It strangely omits the cost of housing (this is really, really bad) and the role that Britain’s exclusionary zoning plays in impoverishing Britons. “Plays” is a deliberate choice here: exclusionary zoning is an ongoing drag on Britain. Like many American cities and states, Britain can and should make the highest-cost item in most people’s budgets cheaper. Unlike America, Britain’s high-value economic activity is extremely concentrated in one place, and this creates further problems.

* “Between 2019 and 2020 1,799 historians earned their Ph.D.s, and only 175 of them are now employed as full-time faculty members.” How many, like me, quit before finishing their Ph.D.s when they realized that there is no job market and their notional scholarly work is at best unimportant and at worst a waste of time? The article’s headline is “What Should We Do About Undergrads Who Want to Pursue a Humanities Doctorate?” and the answer is so, so obvious.

* Michel Houellebecq’s sexual apocalypse. Maybe, but I think that 1. Houellebecq had uncommonly bad and narcissistic parents and 2. one reason for low birth rates in the U.S. and Europe is ultra-high housing costs and an utter failure to build enough housing (Japan is better in this regard but likely faces its own challenge).

* “The Media Very Rarely Lies.” Except that the headline is a form of the lack of context that the article discusses. Which is pretty funny, if you think about it. A bunch of people provide here what they think are counter examples, until those counter examples are closely read.

* Pop fiction writers who died in 2022.

* The need for abundance in all things, instead of the legally-enforced scarcity we’ve got.

* Despite all the blah blah blah you read about “clean” energy, world coal use reached a new high in 2022. Solar, wind, and batteries are good, but the first two are intermittent and the last only stores power. There is currently no good alternative to nuclear power; failure to focus on nuclear means we’re going to burn more coal and more methane. How many environmentalists operate on feelings rather than data?

* Why is progress in biology so slow? One of these really important questions, which seldom dominate the news.

* Argument that Emily in Paris is actually a critique of itself, media culture, and social media.

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