The Steel-Man Against Minimum Wage

Before getting started, I mostly agree with these words. I’m not this confident though.

Minimum wage is the correct moral intuition. Some make heaps, others not much. We should be more concerned with people doing it tough.

But good economics asks ‘and then what?’

Businesses like making money. So if coerced into paying workers more, there’s ways to try and stay profitable:

  • Fire employees. Reducing wages to $0.
  • Replace employees with machines. Reducing wages to $0.
  • Outsource work overseas. Reducing wages to $0
  • Cut hours. Reducing total income.
  • Increase cost of the product/service. Making the cash in everyones pocket less valuable (on the margins).
  • Make less effort to make jobs pleasant.

Some businesses can afford to pay minimum wage, others can’t. These businesses die and so do the jobs they created. These tend to be smaller businesses – unnecessarily helping the big guys.

This reduced competition means surviving businesses require less effort to please customers (price, service, quality etc). This means we miss out on great businesses who never get off the ground.

People get upset when big businesses pay low wages. This makes sense if you compare low wages with high wages. But compare low wages with no wages and big businesses are great for the poorest people.

Advocating for minimum wage makes people feel good. But think about it longer and it’s actually condescending. It assumes well off people know what’s best for the poor. It implies they can’t make adult choices (given their circumstances). So government must be paternal and dictate wages they can and can’t work for.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone whose been involuntarily unemployed for years. Remove minimum wage and they might finally gain employment. The pay sucks. But they learn things, become more confident and have something to put on their resume. This can lead to jobs where the pay doesn’t suck.

To learn things that might help future employment, people earn zero dollars and pay money. Compared to that, low wages are a good deal.

Minimum wage does help some people (at least in the short term). Namely, employable people sitting just below that number. But the correct moral intuition is empathising with the very worst off. The long term unemployed and refugees who never earn a cent.

Please tell me why this is wrong on Twitter.

How To Be More Curious

Some people are lucky. They naturally ask lots of questions (curiosity).

Wether a natural or not, curiosity can be improved.

Here’s how:

Get Told You’re Wrong More:

When I was younger, I started to realise I didn’t know much. So I became intellectually humble. I started saying ‘I dunno’ a lot.

I still don’t know much, but I’ve realised ‘I dunno’ often isn’t pragmatic. Better to have ’strong opinions, loosely held’.

A bold conjecture elicits better feedback. You also get told you’re wrong. This makes you want to defend yourself better next time. You’ll effortlessly desire to answer new questions.

To exaggerate this, try exaggerating a little.

Be More Mindful

The ability to witness the mind allows you to engage useful thoughts and observe useless ones.

Without this skill, you waste brain power on crappy thinking. The opportunity cost of an undomesticated mind is useful thinking.

. . . 

The complexion of each moment is unique. It’s infused with circumstance and who you are at that time. How to maximising a moment (or sequence of them) is always different.

Mindfulness helps you notice this, so you can make better choices about wether to consume, generate or consolidate ideas.

It also helps you figure out which questions are most interesting at that moment.

Capitalise on inspiration by aligning actions with interest/mood.

Curiosity Compounds

Whatever your interest, solving problems always leads to interesting new problems. 

To Be Less Boring, Get Bored More.

Boredom creates a desire to do something interesting. 

‘Interesting’ can mean refreshing Instagram repeatedly. But eliminate junk input, and interesting means higher quality questions.

Follow a ‘not to-do list’ and boredom becomes fertile.

Make Daunting Interesting

Some topics appear daunting. 

Molecular Biology used to be for me, but now it’s interesting. What happened? 

I got bored more. But I also found/made an interesting side door to the topic. I studied viruses when I was sick. I fasted for 3 days and learnt what was happening to my body.

Don’t start on page 1 of the textbook.

Learn The Basics

Learning resembles a tree – you start with the foundation (trunk) then add details (branches). The brain turns off when it hears details about unfamiliar subjects. By learning the basics, it has a place to stick the branches. It opens up a world of interestingness.

Do What Works

I think good ideas come when waiting, such as in transit. They also come when engaged in a  low stimulation task, such as walking or a long shower.

I think it’s because there’s no decisions to be made. This frees up mental resources.

Regardless of why – spend more time walking, in the shower or doing whatever works for you. A change of scenery seems to help too.

Get Healthy

The most underrated aspect of intellectual growth is energy management. Make choices to increase sustained energy levels and your brain will be more interesting.

Deliberately Ask More Questions

Thinking is largely the process of asking and answering questions. To think better deliberately ask more questions.

For me, this is best done on the page.

Scale Personal Problems

For example, if interested in eating healthy, ask how to improve the diet of 100,000 people. Big thoughts are exciting, which stimulates the mind (h/t Lulie).

Why Don’t Men Talk About Their Problems?

Explanation 1: Cultural norms.

Explanation 2: On average, women naturally get more out of talking through problems. They then project their experience onto men. Men are naturally less compelled.

— 

I think both are true. Cultural norms discourage too much openness amongst men. On average, men also get less out of talking through problems than women.

I’ve tried talking through problems with women. Not because I feel compelled, but because I think it’s what they want. Each time I’ve tried I felt worse. And no, I don’t think I ‘push them down’. 

We live amongst some dinosaurs with 60’s values. But in general, I think culture does a decent job on this. Excess openness is discouraged. Openness in the wrong context is discouraged. Don’t talk too much about your ex on first dates. Don’t cry about your problems with strangers. 

But on average, a pro athlete talking about mental health struggles is applauded. Some tears during a best-man speech are endearing.

Fans of ‘The Patriarchy’ to explain the world haven’t caught on. Culture changed a lot since the 70’s.

I don’t think they ever will. Among 7 billion or so people, there will always be examples of misogyny. Just like there will always be some theft.

Are Supplements Worth It?

I used to take heaps of supplements.

Then I realised we don’t know much about how supplements effect the body. It’s hard to track second order effects of an input into a complex system. Even if the science is done well.

So as a hedge against limited knowledge, I stopped ingesting things my ancestors wouldn’t have.

I still believe this, but I take supplements again.

Why?

Some pills provide energy. Using this energy, you might make better health choices. It might be the difference between eating a mound of cake or not. Using this energy, you might get more done. Getting more done can be good for the psyche.

Some pills help provide calm. Using this calmness, you might sleep better. It might result in less shitty thoughts. Less stress is healthy.

There’s a spectrum of risk with supplements. I’m still very conservative, but sometimes the tradeoff is worth it.

FYI some stuff I use: Lions Mane, Rhodiola, B Complex, Zinc, Magnesium, Ashwaganda, Carnityl, Creatine, MCT shots.

The Qualified Self

It’s a race against the clock.

Bill wants to get to the finish line, but there’s a wall in the way – a big one. Going around isn’t an option, so he generates as much momentum as possible, presses down with force and explodes skyward.

Nope.

Again? No.

One more time? Nah.

Instead he jumps down some plumbing pipes, pops out the other side, runs to the next screen and saves the princess.

Billy is a 6 year old scientist.

He formulated a hypothesis: ‘To get past the wall I need to jump over it’. Billy conducted the experiment as best he could, but it didn’t yield the result he hoped (a different story if he chowed some shrooms earlier). He then formulated a new hypothesis, tested it and got the result he wanted.

Science is a word used to describe lots of different things. Done well it’s typically falsifiable (Popper), predictive (reproducibility) and has a hard to vary explanation (Deutsch).

Science is usually assumed rigorous. This prevents us from being scientific and asking questions about it. Instead, with a simple enough definition the scientific method is a natural mode of thought. It therefore predates science, humanity even.

This mode is a keeper, problem is it’s just one of many. So smart people double down on it.

Continue reading The Qualified Self