• ## Pareto improvement as partial order

We use the concept of Pareto improvement to motivate and illustrate partial and total orders.

We covered the notion of Pareto improvement in the preceding post. I briefly alluded to the fact that it’s a strict partial order. Let’s explore that a bit more.

### Partial order

A strict partial order is a binary relation that is irreflexive (no element precedes itself), and transitive. Pareto improvement satisfies both of these criteria:

Irreflexive: $$\neg (A \prec A)$$
No scenario is a Pareto improvement over itself because no one strictly prefers it (person 1 doesn’t prefer scenario A to scenario A), trivially.
Transitive: $$A \prec B, B \prec C \Rightarrow A \prec C$$
If arbitrary scenario B is a Pareto improvement over arbitrary scenario A and arbitrary scenario C is a Pareto improvement over scenario B, then scenario C is a Pareto improvement over scenario A. In other words, if no one is worse off in scenario B than scenario A and no one is worse off in scenario C than scenario B, then, clearly, no one is worse off in scenario three than scenario A. And if at least one person is better off in scenario B than scenario A and at least one person is better off in scenario C than scenario B, then, clearly, at least one person is better off in scenario C than scenario A.
Full post

• ## Putting-out with smartphones I

The putting-out system was a pre-industrial way of organizing work. It involved workers performing small, discrete stages of work in their own homes as merchants coordinated this work across many such households. The subsequent transition to factory labor was detrimental in many ways and is decried by leftists. But the preferred putting-out system seems quite similar to the gig economy which is also poo-pooed by leftists.

##### Contents
[S]carcity, to a certain degree, promoted industry, and that the manufacturer (worker) who can subsist on three days work will be idle and drunken the remainder of the week… The poor in the manufacturing counties will never work any more time in general than is necessary just to live and support their weekly debauches… We can fairly aver that a reduction of wages in the woolen manufacture would be a national blessing and advantage, and no real injury to the poor. (Smith 1765)

### Putting-out system

Between the guild system and the full steam Industrial Revolution, England briefly used the putting-out system. Under this system, finished goods were assembled not in factories or dedicated workshops, but component-by-component in a multitude of homes and cottages.

For example (illustrative hypothetical based on Wikipedia): One worker would trundle their hand cart to the market, drop off cleaned wool in exchange for a piece rate payment, and the merchant would dispatch them with a new load of wool. That merchant would take this cleaned wool and give it to another independent worker for carding. The carder would take the cleaned wool home, the family would process it in their home, and then return to the market in a couple weeks to give the merchant carded wool. This staged process would repeat with a separate family taking home loads of inputs and returning outputs for each subsequent stage in the process—spinning, plying, weaving, etc. When the final task was complete, the merchant would take the finished goods to a market or store and sell them to consumers. In this way, the task was broken down into small components and coordinated by the merchants—somewhat like a (spatially and temporally) disaggregated assembly line.

Full post

• ## YAAS Reading: Most of us read with our eyes and our brains

Summary

### Speech > writing

Speech is prior to writing. Spoken language is thought to have originated around 100,000 years ago; written language 5,000 years ago. All human societies have spoken language; not so for writing. No natural language is purely written. Children learn to speak and interpret language without explicit instruction; not so for reading. Thus, we reach the claim that reading and writing is an “optional accessory that must be painstakingly bolted on” (McGuinness 1997).

After this bolting is complete, many of our reading processes are still mediated by our more fundamental spoken language processes—even during silent reading:

• For example, when researches asked silent readers to rapidly decide whether words belonged to a category, homophones produced incorrect “yes”es 19% of the time (whether “meet” belongs in the category food) compared to the base rate for orthographically similar words of 3% (whether “melt” belongs in the category food1). The implication here is that we have difficulty translating directly from visual input to units of meaning and this visual-meaning connection is often mediated by the auditory representation.

• In a different study, researchers asked readers to repeat an irrelevant word or phrase aloud while reading in an effort to impede any subvocalization. These readers performed worse on a subsequent test of comprehension than those asked to repeat a sequence of finger taps.

So our brains aren’t great at reading. But neither are our eyes.

Full post

• ## A visual intuition for the instrumental argument for equality

### Introduction

#### Equality

Our moral intuition1 easily suggests that equality has moral value. The world in which Robinson Crusoe and Friday share coconuts seems vastly better than the world in which Crusoe sits on his coconut throne and doles out the barest sustenance to Friday. It is easy to leap from this intuition to the conclusion that equality is an intrinsic good. But, in this post, let’s make a stop at the proposition that equality is instead only an instrumental good.

#### Equality instrumentally

If our sole intrinsic good is something like utils, we will still often prefer equality to inequality. What sorcery could introduce such deontological concepts into our consequentialist paradise? The incantation is “diminishing marginal utility”. It is an empirical proposition (and mostly fact) that humans do not enjoy their 10th print copy of even their favorite book as much as the first. Thus, a bibliomaniac can improve overall well-being by sharing the love. Losing copy 10 hurts less than gaining copy 1 helps.

### Visualizing the utilitarian consequences of income distribution

We can start to build a visual intuition for this instrumental egalitarianism. Suppose we have an income distribution that looks like this:

Full post

• ## Notebook–A visual intuition for the instrumental argument for equality

— link-citations: true title: Notebook–A visual intuition for the instrumental argument for equality published: 2018-04-25 tags: notebook, social welfare, inequality —

Full post

A weblog