Voting Decision Models

James Lileks writes great angry.  Here is an example.  James used to have a section of his website, we think it was called screeds, for his collection of angry, nasty humor.  We loved them.  Kevin D. Williamson is also a master of the genre.  David French is not.  We are not either.  That’s why it has taken us time to respond to David’s “Dump [The Donald], But Don’t Burn Down The GOP” at The Dispatch.  David’s Dump doesn’t have the style of James or Kevin but who does?  The problem is that it doesn’t make much sense either.

Our disagreement is interesting because we suspect that if asked to pick who should be president now we would both have the same response: Mitt’s second term.  We are not saying David is not a conservative.  We just think he is wrong about voting models.

One issue we are ignoring is the conjunction of dumping The Donald AND burning down the GOP.  Near the beginning David says:

In other words, in the furious argument over the future of the Republican party and political conservatism, consider me squarely in the camp that seeks to dump [The Donald] but not to seek vengeance on the rest of the GOP.  [Emphasis added]

It must be a Twitter thing since we are not in that milieu.  We see that there are still some Never The Donald folks out there and there are some folks that want to burn the GOP because it doesn’t support The Donald enough but we didn’t know anyone was for both.  We weren’t aware of an argument of any kind never made a furious one.  We are not interested in that part of David’s Dump.  We are interested in the Dump The Donald part.  David quotes himself on how Christians should vote:

First, they must possess a personal character that is worthy of the office they seek. Second, they must broadly share my political values. If a candidate fails either prong of that test, he or she doesn’t receive my vote.

Then he goes on about The Donald’s incompetence.  He needs to reread The Weed Agency to remind himself of the difficulties of governing.  Yes, we know it is a work of fiction but it is instructive.  He goes on to say that competence is a character trait.  He is surely wrong about that.  Expertise relates to specific limited areas.  Everyone (do we need an almost before everyone?) has limited areas of competencies.

Sidebar One: The winner of a recent bridge tournament with thousands of entries including MWG is also (self reported) a crossword puzzle champ.  We are amazed by that combination of extraordinary skills.  End Sidebar One.

Our major complaint is that David’s voting model has people staying home on election day or only making a couple of votes.  How many people have you voted for enthusiastically in your life?  If your two main criteria are character and political values while competency fits in too do you want to help The Frontrunner win?  VDH isn’t always right (is he?) but you might consider this in your voting decision.

When we get down to the general election we think you need to compare the two candidates.  It is a binary choice: either The Donald or The Frontrunner will win in November.  Even if you live in Wisconsin only rarely do you get to vote for a Ron Johnson.  Pick the best candidate by your model and vote.  If your model has you staying home often reconsider it.

Sidebar Two: One rational model for staying home is that the value of your vote is not worth the cost of making it.  It is not an unreasonable conclusion.  The problem is that this model means that rational people vote less.  We don’t think that having rational people voting less is a good idea.  End Sidebar Two.

Don’t stay home or leave the presidential choice blank on David’s orders.

Risk Aversion II: Professors

We were discussing Kevin D. Williamson’s article in the currentNational Review.  He has a wonderful article about dynamic American businesses and the comparisons with other developed countries around the world.  Of course you should read it and subscribe to National Review.

We previously discussed the exceptions of the business of American sports and public safety in America not being as risk loving compared to the rest of the developed world.  Now we want to get on to professors and risk aversion.  Remember that risk aversion means that an individual prefers a smaller variance of outcomes rather than a larger variance.  In dismissing professors, Kevin says:

 If you want to have a nice life as a college professor, you’d probably be happier in Denmark, where there is a very comfortable welfare state, or in Switzerland, where universities pay the highest academic salaries in the world.

Two things: First, tenured professors have a very low risk life in America.  Second, there are substantial risks to becoming a tenured professor in America and elsewhere.

A tenured professor is not just risk averse but  about as risk free as any position can be.  A tenured professor can only be fired for cause.  Poor, really poor, performance is not cause.  We know this from our experience with System lawyers.  You won’t get really rich as a professor but you have amazing freedom, benefits, and post-employment benefits so there is no need to go to Denmark.  An example we have used before is that our health care is paid for until we are 115.  A tenured position in America is like being in your own private nordic country but you don’t have to put up with all the tall people.

Reaching the goal of being a tenured professor, on the other hand, is a very risky proposition.  There are other hurdles but the three major ones are getting a PhD, getting a tenure-track position, and, obviously, getting tenure.  All of them are risky because the alternatives are not good.  For example, many disciplines have a combined masters and PhD program.  In effect, a masters degree is a parting gift for the folks that didn’t make it as PhD candidates.  During our minor in economics we saw lots of folks get culled from that program.  Getting a PhD is a judgment by the senior professors.  If you rock the boat or are, gasp, a conservative you are less likely to get your degree.

Getting a tenure track position can be difficult.  Part-time faculty positions are numerous but rarely advantageous.  See this AAUP study.  Part-time faculty members have high risk and low rewards.  For some open full-time tenure-track faculty positions we would get well over 100 applicants.  For an accounting position we might hit double digits in a recession.  You need to love what you study to earn a PhD but you should consider the alternatives.  Lots of PhDs never get a tenure track position.

Getting tenure is not easy.  If you look at the story that Kevin probably used as a reference for Switzerland having the highest paid professors you will see that they expect great things for the money and it appears clear that promotion to full professor is far from a given.  It looks like the Swiss universities are what we would call doctoral universities.  If you check the Carnegie categories at the link you should know that there is a clear relation of risk and reward by classification.  There are more classifications but three will do for our discussion: Doctoral, Masters, and Baccalaureate.  Doctoral schools are paid like the Swiss and the probability of becoming a tenured full professor is low.  We have tried to find data on the percentage of folks that leave but most leave before they are denied tenure.  It is a bit like working a big accounting firm.  Many are hired but very few become partners. The difference is that folks that leave a big accounting firms are in high demand.  Folks that leave Doctoral campuses for other classifications have some baggage.  At the other end of the spectrum, Baccalaureate tenure-track positions are easier to get and easier to keep but the financial rewards are usually much less.

Our point is that you have to be risk lover to become a tenured faculty member but once you reach that goal risk goes away.



Missing The Point On Expertise

Expertise is tricky because there are lots of levels of experts.  Ski areas have gone to black diamonds and double black diamonds as one obvious example.  On Bridge Base Online (BBO) where we play during the pandemic BBO asks you to self-describe your bridge skills from the following list: Novice, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, and World Class.  A CPA certificate might be a way to identify an expert accountant but accountants would be more specific; you might be an expert in international tax.

One sine qua non to expertise is work.  But, because there are different levels of expertise work is not the only determinant of where you end up.  So we wondered why when Sara Kiley Watson said this in Popular Science:

Anyone can be the next LeBron James, Yo-Yo Ma, or Celine Dion as long as they can devote enough time to honing their craft.

We are not suggesting that LeBron, Yo-Yo, or Celine don’t work hard at their craft. They do.  To look at sports, all the college players and anybody that remains in the soccer academies puts in the 10,000 hours of practice that Kelly mentions.  They are expert players.  But only a tiny percentage of those become pros.  And only a tiny percentage of the pros become dominant in their sport.  Practice is why Michael Jordan, a dominant basketball player could not get out of the minor leagues in baseball.  You might practice as much and as hard as Lionel Messi but you are unlikely to reach his level of dominance unless you have the skills of Cristiano Ronaldo.

So we agree that almost everyone can become an expert with enough practice.  We knew a student with severe dyslexia that became a CPA.  She worked extremely hard to be highly successful at her craft.  Yet she isn’t the Lionel of accounting.

What Kelly and everyone else need to understand is that to reach the highest echelons of expertise requires elements beyond practice.  Coaching might be one attribute.  Did Bill make Tommy great or vice versa?  Physical attributes can be important.  Long arm are great for basketball players but don’t matter much to soccer players except goalies.

Practice is really important.  You can’t become good without it.  So if you put in your 10,000 hours you will be really good at that.  But you still might not get a Division I athletic scholarship or play for a major symphony.  You will learn that you need to work hard to be good at something.

A Legislative Challenge

The always informative Kevin D. Williamson has a wicked neat idea at NRO.  He recognizes that the feds like to attach strings to aid.  He explains why the attempt to eliminate stock buybacks was so silly.

He recognizes the need for federal aid to states and the problem:

There is a good case for providing some short-term aid to states and cities whose revenue streams are currently smoking ruins in the wake of a global crisis over which they had no control. But that is not the question. The question is whether Washington should bail them out of troubles that are only tangentially related to the epidemic. The answer to that is, No.

We absolutely agree.  Part of the reason we agree is, see below for why, we are from Wisconsin.  He is not quite right when he says:

The main issue here is the unfunded liabilities of the state and local pension systems, particularly in Democrat-run jurisdictions such as the state of Illinois and the city of Dallas. [Emphasis added]

If we look at the map here of the funded ratio of pension liabilities from 2017 it is hard to find a political pattern. Illinois is 50th and KY is 48th.  As a state retiree we feel good that WI is number one.  It is true that Democrats run essentially all of the big cities where there are numerous pension problems.  It is also true that CA has a ratio in the middle (27th) but the size of that state, in both senses, means that unfunded amount for CA is very large.  So it is less of a red/blue problem than Kevin D. suggests.

He gives some ideas to Mitch McConnell and the GOP:

It would be entirely appropriate to encumber aid in such a way as to prevent its being used for any other than a relatively narrow range of specified purposes. But, because money is fungible, that sort of legislative guardrail might not be enough. A better approach would be to condition aid on distressed states’ and cities’ actually addressing their unfunded liabilities, which are the root of the problem here. To that end, Congress could require that states adopt reasonably responsible pension practices in order to participate in ongoing assistance programs; “reasonably responsible” here would mean renegotiating programs with beneficiaries in order to begin to align the promises that have been made with the resources needed to make good on them and seeing to it that states start making actuarially required contributions to pension plans going forward. Of course that assumes a level of credibility and discipline not obviously in evidence in Washington (or in Austin, or in Frankfort, or in Olympia), but so does every alternative.

We think renegotiating pension agreements and making actuarially required contributions is a great solution.  We are not sure if the former is legally feasible.  The GOP might find other good solutions.  We are almost sure it won’t happen.  One reason is that Washington never does anything that smart.  But the other, and more important reason is, Mitch is from KY.  Check the map.  Sadly, we are not going to see a legislative solution that prevents federal aid from being used to pay off unfunded pension liabilities..

Conservatism: Big C And Little c

In the UK the the Conservative Party or Tories or legally, The Conservative and Unionist Party is comparable to the GOP. There is substantial debate over what a conservative is in the US.  We expect there is in the UK.  In the UK it is clear who is a Conservative but both countries debate who is a conservative.

Sidebar: We often remind folks of the important of expertise.  We do not suggest that we are experts on UK politics.  We do, however, know a bit about the difference between political parties and political viewpoints.  End Sidebar.

In the US, The Donald and his followers are trying to claim the conservative mantle while folks on the left decide if they want to be progressives, liberals, or socialists, or even democratic socialists.  In discussing the UK we must be more careful of capitalization because the Conservatives are a major political party.

What brought this to our attention is an article in the UnHerd by Matthew Sweetwith the begging the question title of, “Since When Did Tories Care About Workers?”  It takes a few paragraphs but Matthew gets to his bias:

Work is a four-letter word. Worker has six, but it’s still one that sounds surprising when uttered, enthusiastically, by a figure whose political home is not on the Left.

Matthew is faux amazed that Boris Johnson, the current Conservative Prime Minister has said nice things about workers.  We don’t understand.  We think every elected official in every country (wow! we went out on a limb there) has praised its workers.  Matthew then wanders off to complain about the left: Stalin, Hitler, and Franco before coming back to the UK:

These are the new Tories. This is the new normal. Thatcher’s children, talking like Clem Attlee was their real dad all along.

Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative and a conservative.  She brought the UK back to life as prime minister from 1979-90.  Clement Attlee was a Labour party leader (think Democrats in the US although the UK is not exactly a two party country) and socialist who led the UK’s disastrous foray into socialism after WWII.

Our question is: did Margaret or Clement care about work and workers?  The left has a history of caring about workers in certain industries.  Back in Clement’s time it was the unionized workers and especially those in nationalized industries.  Clement favored certain workers but not others.  The rest suffered through high prices, high taxes, and poor quality.  Currently in the US the left focuses on unionized teachers.

A basic tenet of conservatism is being pro-work.  We don’t see why Matthew brought that up.  Encouragement of work is solely a conservative virtue.

Margaret is eligible for membership as a capitalistic orphan so she is pro-work and pro-consumer.  She wants to reduce regulation and taxes to give folks an opportunity and incentive to work.  Of course, all workers are consumers so she cared about workers in general.  But she did not look to help workers in nationalized industries to continue to collecteconomic rents.

Both parties care about workers in different ways.  Margaret cared about creating opportunities for workers and consumers.  Clement cared about certain workers in certain industries.  We strongly favor Margaret’s system.


Expertise And COVID-19

You don’t want to be on the left.  In the United States the exception is that you walk on the left.  People, let’s make it easy to keep our social distance by walking on the left.

OK, with our public service announcement out of the way let’s talk about COVID-19 and expertise.  Daniel Tanreiro at NRO has an excellent article, Up From Expertise that you should read in full.  While you are there it is a good time to donate to NRO.  There is a donate button near the top left on the NRO page.

Long Sidebar: COVID-19 and the economic regulations that have come with it have had widely different economic impact on individuals.  Some folks have lost their income and are being squeezed by expenses.  That’s why we don’t like to call government relief stimulus.  It is not intended to stimulate the economy.  It is imperfect relief to the individuals that the government took away their livelihoods.  For others, like us, income is relatively unchanged but expenses are down substantially because we can’t do much.  To be flippant, Jameson is cheaper by the bottle than the shot.  It is good for us fortunate folk to give to organizations that directly help with COVID-19 but don’t forget about places that are indirectly hurt by COVID-19 like NRO orAPT.  End Long Sidebar.

There are three things you should know.  Two of them are about expertise.  The first thing you should know about expertise is that it relates to a specific discipline.  A person can have more than one area of expertise but each person has a limited number of areas of expertise.  The second thing you should know, and you probably already do, is that experts make mistakes.  We were reminded of this just yesterday when we were kibitzing a high level bridge tournament at Bridge Base Online.  One expert pair absolutely butchered the bidding on two consecutive hands.  If they were playing at our local club they would have finished last on those two boards.  The third thing is that counterfactuals are really difficult.

We are often in agreement with Daniel but he confuses expertise with science and  forgets about political expertise..  Scientists are experts within their area but so are military leaders.  Daniel refers glowingly to “he German war scholar Carl von Clausewitz called it coup d’oeil:” and then says:

The ability to survey the landscape and render quick judgments, informed by both knowledge and intuition, to build a coherent whole “out of fragments visible to the human eye.” That the sciences reject intuition minimizes their utility when the moment calls for haste.

The first sentence describes expertise.  That is exactly what bridge experts do better than novices almost all of the time.  The second one is, at best, partially true.  Experts of all kinds including science experts are perfectly happy with predicting certain things with great haste like lockdowns during an epidemic will save lives. The data problem that needs time  is exactly how many and where lockdowns are needed.

Then there is political expertise.  The Donald planted his COVID-19 flag by correctly restricting entry from China on January 31.  Other politicians made the wrong move by calling him xenophobic.  Daniel doesn’t give him nearly enough credit for being right early in difficult choice.  As Daniel says:

The World Health Organization,[WHO] which in a matter of weeks has brought itself permanent disgrace, assured the public in January that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the [COVID-19].”

Of course, what WHO was showing was political expertise or at least deference to China rather than scientific expertise.  In the US, politicians and bureaucrats are showing their expertise by taking dramatic action.  We should remember that one thing they have expertise in is at getting elected or keeping their position.  It doesn’t mean they are wrong.

At some point soon we are going to need the detailed science and the political expertise to come together to decide when to end the lockdowns.  Even if science can get perfect data it is going to be a hard political decision because of the counterfactual problem we brought up earlier.  People die from COVID-19 but there are a variety of problems caused by lockdowns including death. What if we end the lockdowns on the perfect date based perfect data and perfect science and then either The Donald or The Frontrunner die from COVID 19?  It might have been the right choice overall but that one death would cause huge problems.

Daniel is closer than most on understanding expertise. It is a difficult subject.

Gone By Randy Wayne White

We suppose Randy Wayne has to keep himself separate from the former Dallas Cowboy.  In Gone, he starts his second series, this one starring Hannah Smith, set in southwestern Florida.  The first is the Doc Ford series.  We picked Gone from the library because they didn’t have the first book of the other series.  We like trying authors with lots of books.  His might come too fast with 14 in the last decade.

Hannah (Four) Smith is a 30-something high school swimmer, clarinet player, and acne sufferer.  She is a current fishing captain in southwest Florida with a long family history in that region and we are repeatedly told wears a 34 D bra.  As she meets a world of implants she is proud to have inherited hers from the earlier Hannahs.  Her Uncle Jake, now dead, had her help with earlier private investigations so she has paperwork when Mr. Seasons asks her to find flat chested Olivia (called Olive Oyl by her captor), a thirty-something heir.  She rejects his offers at first but we know she is going to do it.

We find it really odd that boys and now men were so focused on Hannah’s acne rather than her more obvious assets.  We grew up in New England where it could be a challenge to observe female shapes through all the layers.  We were successful there and the Florida boys have a big advantage with the weather and related clothing.  It made us itchy and sweaty just reading about folks wearing jeans in Florida.

Hannah is a very odd duck. She is a great small boat captain that keeps an amazingly orderly and prepared boat but loses her cell phone at the worst time because she takes off too fast and then gets her boat stuck shortly there after.  She loses her gun that Uncle Jake had left her multiple times in the final action scenes.  Hannah is not sure if she can take defensive measures when the bad guys come with a shotgun to rape and kill her and Olivia.  There is already a dead body near by as evidence of intent of the bad guys.  She is the opposite of CJ Box’s Nate Romanowski.  But she seems to have made friends in the book and perhaps, reached some competency as an investigator.

We were not real impressed by Gone but we understand that expertise takes time.  Gone was Hannah’s first lead investigation.   We are hopeful for the next book, Deceived, because Hannah has come of age and it should be an interesting time.  We hope she will get a holster for her gun.  We have a suggestion that nobody will notice.

Role Models

We enjoy Mesut Özil as a soccer player.  He is one of the most talented and creative players in the world.  He is controversial because of his behavior on and off the pitch.  He hates to shoot on goal even more than he loves to make the amazing assist.  His relationship, or lack of it, is one of the reasons that Unai Emery is now the former coach of Arsenal.  It has been a dark time for us Arsenal fans.  And we get Manchester City shortly.  Update: we are down three at halftime.

Mesut plays(ed?) internationally for Germany but he has Turkish heritage too and is a Muslim.  He has been in the news recently for commenting on both China and his fellow Muslims as reported by the English newspaper The Mirror:

[Mesut] took to social media to add his voice to the wave of international outrage about the treatment of the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

The Uighur population in the region has been subjected to a campaign of religious and ethnic persecution by the Chinese authorities, with claims that more than a million have been held in detention camps.

[Mesut said] “But Muslims are silent. They won’t make a noise. They have abandoned them. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?”

We salute Mesut for bringing up this problem in China but especially for asking questions (as they say in soccer commentary) of his fellow Muslims.  We generally don’t take cues from athletes and so on but to have one stand up to China and his fellow Muslims in one fell swoop is pretty amazing.

And what does his employer, Arsenal, think of his comments?  The Mirror tells us,

“Regarding the comments made by Mesut … on social media, Arsenal must make a clear statement,” it read.

“The content published is [Mesut]’s personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”

Arsenal has not covered itself in glory but it hasn’t gone NBA either.  The Mirror also made the connection between this tweet by another Arsenal player and the Arsenal reaction to it:

On Thursday, the day of the general election in the UK, Hector Bellerin [a Spanish player for Arsenal] tweeted: “Young people across the world have a chance to change what the future can be. Today’s the chance for all the British people to influence what your future and those living here holds. #F**kBoris #GoVote.”

Arsenal did not issue a statement in response to Bellerin’s tweet.

Sidebar: We don’t know the answer but it is an interesting question.  What will be the tax impact of Brexit on folks still in the European Union, like Hector, but working in the UK.  End Sidebar.

Mesut twice spoke up when it would have been more popular to be quiet.  Arsenal did fairly close to the opposite.  Now if Mesut can get us some goals he could be a real role model for folks.



Paul McCartney In Madison

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves, our sister, and a friend to see Paul McCartney at the Kohl Center in Madison.  Wow! it was worth the trip.  Paul gave a three hour tour (just like Gilligan) of 38 songs from the Beatles, Wings, and his solo work.  You need to see him before this musical treasure is gone.

Paul’s voice is not the instrument it once was but he is still a joy to listen to.  What make it a great show is the songs, the organization, his presence, and his musical skills.  Paul is onstage for all three hours playing a variety of guitars, keyboards, and a (baby?) grand piano.  It makes three hours fly by.

Paul is a star and he knows it because he can still connect to us. At one point amidst all the applause he says (approximately) I think I’ll take a second to drink it all in.  It wasn’t a talk-fest like some concerts (Donovan) we have been to but he did have some great stories.  The one we liked was very brief and concerned writing Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite and the relationship we saw with expertise.  Paul related, as many knew, that a substantial part of the lyrics came from a poster of John’s.  Paul made a self-depreciating comment something like, “After that there wasn’t much to writing it.”  Of course there was much to it.  The first step was to see the germ of the song on the poster.  The second step was to flesh it out.  Several steps later there is a song worth including on Sgt. Pepper.

The organization of the show starts with the brass section showing up in the third (?) song in the audience in about section 105.  Shortly after they closed off part of the stage to do some of the older Beatles songs as a small group.  Later, Paul did a couple of solos on a cube that rose up (15 feet?) from the stage.  The pyrotechnics in Live And Let Die scared the bejeezus out of us.  The video content was interesting.  We especially liked the tribute to George.

And there are great songs even without playing Yesterday!  We could list a half dozen songs he should have added.  Paul is still the popular rocker he was with the Beatles so his library is 50 plus years of joy.  Sure there was a song about bullying and another about segregation (Blackbird) but it was not a woke show.  It was fun.  It was great fun.  You should see Paul while you still can.


Geo-political Examples

As the Art of Blogging says writing posts takes time.  A couple of days ago we said we were going to have two posts linking Kevin Williamson and maps but each of them proved more time consuming than we thought.

Alert: We are heading off continent to places that might make blogging difficult.  Any post could be the last one until about Christmas.  End Alert.

Maps were one of our first loves.  We still love them and we especially love the paper kind that we grew up with.  We remember getting the state road atlas and checking for new Interstates because they were new then.  We checked to find the town with the smallest population in each state.  It was no surprise that we got Prisoners Of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About The World by Tim Marshall as a birthday present.  Here is his website where you can buy the book.  It is worth buying and reading.

Sidebar: We take expertise very seriously.  Some parts of this review are a bit speculative.  We will try to keep you informed.  End Sidebar.

Tim has written Geo-politics 101 without the theory.  Despite our love of maps we tend to see the world economically so it was worthwhile for us but we need another book to extend our education.  Tim’s book will be interesting and useful to lots of folks because it is exactly about ten maps.  Whoever wrote the subtitle that the maps explain everything is way overstating Tim’s case.  He thinks that geography is important but just that.  He uses ten maps as examples.  On page 7, Tim talks about obeying and ignoring the rules of geography but the only one he seems to give is when the land is hard to defend the leaders push outwards.  Then he gives Russia as the example of the rule.  Rules need more than one example.

A minor quibble is the quality of the maps.  They are sometimes hard to read and sometimes leave off some of Tim’s main topics.  For example, the maps of Pakistan on p. 188 and p. 194 leave off Gwadar.  The Chinese investment in Gwadar is a major issue in both the China map and the India and Pakistan map.  Gwadar does show up in the map that opens India and Pakistan on pp. 180-181.  We know the problems about the economics of publishing but better maps would help.

Here is where will will push the limits of our expertise to try and help you understand Tim’s book.  We don’t want this post to be book length so we can’t be very academic.  Consider Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, and Kevin Williamson as authors.  Although one might try and excommunicate the others from the conservative denomination, most of us recognize all of them as very different but still conservative.

Our take is that Ann is a prosecutor.  She is marshaling the evidence to try and prove her case.  If there are any weaknesses in her arguments you will not hear it from her.  She keeps herself on task and deals with a specific subject for a popular audience.  Given her legal background her writing style is not a surprise.

Jonah is an academic at heart.  The appendix in Suicide of the West is one piece of evidence.  The second is that he wants to generalize but he recognizes the difficulty of generalization and so he often considers alternative arguments.  He wants to write a popular book that an academic could enjoy.

Kevin loves controversy.  He tweeted some things that got him fired at The Atlantic.  That he went to The Atlantic in the first place tells you something about him.  He has amazing insights that he thunders down upon us in wonderful prose.

Tim isn’t interested in being Jonah.  He wants to be Kevin but he will have to settle to be Ann.  An example of why he isn’t the other two is Tim’s discussion of Venezuela in Latin America.  It is brief but it leaves out that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.  That is a big part of its geography.  To convince the unconvinced you must deal with the obvious problems in argument you are trying to make.

We recommend Tim’s book.  It gave us much to think about and changed our perspective in some areas.  If you don’t take every word as the gospel you will be better for reading it.  We are.