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July 19, 2022


Zen Masters

Enjoyable and stimulating reading.

Interesting point about the benefits to companies (and capitalism more generally) if more older people dropped out of the workforce when they were able - so freeing up capacity to take on younger people who actually need the work. Someone (informed and reasonable - perhaps Tom Forth) on twitter the other week posted an estimate that increasing employee turnover so more young women replaced more old men could boost UK productivity by something staggering like 30%. (Whether young women want that work or would prefer to be mothers as one women I know suggested is another matter.)

On the topic of a satisfied mind and having enough to live on without extravagance. I can attest to this having gone through some tough times in the last 10 years when I was forced to learn to live frugally again. Things have improved somewhat, but I still tend to live (and shop) as though we had considerably less cash than we do. When I do indulge in an extravagance, it tends to be a shared experience with loved ones - such as posh gelato at the beach or a nice bottle of wine for supper. I have stopped buying possessions (books don't count of course).

Keep on writing please.


Seems to tie-in with the "financial independence" movement and the "lying flat" movement. You've possibly written about these previously.


Having not long retired, the narrative fits. Enjoyable read. Lost it a bit though later on as Marx, Keynes and Mokyr popped up, whereupon, amongst simple stuff for which to be grateful, probably overcome by anti-ambition and modesty of effort. Cruise metaphor amusing.


Nice article and congratulations on your retirement. This strikes a chord, but in the US a big reason to keep working is that Medicare (retiree medical) does not start until age 65, so work becomes a way to have health insurance without breaking the bank. As to keeping someone young out of a good paying job, the work (pensions) is time consuming and dull, and we are hiring but finding few qualified takers (math and stat skills seem headed to Wall Street, and the few interested in actuarial work gravitate to more interesting areas like casualty and health)(insert joke about life being dull here).

Kevin Carson

Ties in very well with observations of thinkers like Paul Goodman and Ivan Illich on how high-overhead culture and embedded monopoly rents have crowded out cheap alternatives, and radical monopoly makes it impossible to live cheaply but comfortably.
Incidentally, I just discovered that https://12ft.io/ enables me to evade Facebook's ban on posting links to your blog.

Donald A Coffin

You might be amused to discover that, when I attempt to link to any of your posts to Facebook, so my actual friends could read them, the FB Bots say this:

"This URL goes against our Community Standards on spam:
To protect people on Facebook from spam, we don't allow content that contains such URLs.""

Donald A Coffin

I retired at 64 (but immediately took on a part-time gig for the subsequent 6 years. But, then, my job was teaching economics at the university level, and I got, and continued to get, a great deal of satisfaction from it. (I certainly did not teach part-time for the money.) But I also knew I could give it up any time with no real loss of income. (Also, if I wanted to take a term off, I could, and I was welcomed back for the subsequent terms.)

Davis X Machina

Contentment is wealth...

The old ones knew.



«"Free competition brings out the inherent laws of capitalist production"»

I have been been thinking about that and there is a very big deal there, even bigger than the bearded man realized:

* What that means in modern terminology is that "something" forces people and companies to be optimizing rather than satisficing.

* That "something" is not capitalism, intended properly and technically as the separation of workers and means of production, as such, but competitive markets: buyers will purchase the cheapest/best product, more than one cheap/good enough, so it is competitive markets that are the direct cause of an optimizing approach.

* That optimizing approach means that the lowest direct price/performance is the single goal, regardless of external costs.

* But if capitalism was absent, workers could choose produce for themselves, and not for markets, so they could adopt a satisficing approach, but self-production is hugely impractical.

So the pressure on worse working conditions is not because of the private ownership of means of production, but an optimizing approach if forced by the combination of capitalism, and it does not matter whether it is private, nationalized, cooperative, social, communal, and of competitive markets. The ownership of the means of production relates the distribution of value added, but it is optimizing just for marker price/performance that generates oppression.

It also relates to the "coasian" question of why firms exist instead of just networks of contracts: competitive markets force short-term optimizing approaches, and for many activities a long-term satisficing approach within an organization is more robust, it is not just about transaction costs.


«The biggest determinants of productivity are institutions: organizational capital, state capacity, well-functioning markets and so on.»

That's a common delusion (the other is that technology is the biggest determinant of productivity), all those are just enabling factors (necessary but not sufficient).

The single biggest determinant of productivity, by at least an order of magnitude more than any others, is abundance of cheap, energy dense fuel.


«cash that would otherwise go into pension savings is diverted towards mortgage or rent payments or paying off student loans. [...] today’s young people must support rentiers.»

One of the great advantages over tax-based downwards redistribution of property-based upwards redistribution is that the latter is paid for by the politically powerless lower-middle and lower classes who cannot pushback, while the former is paid for by politically powerful upper and upper-middle classes who can pushback quite hard.


«Rather than save for retirement, as I could in my 30s, today’s young people must support rentiers.»

As usual that "young people" is a very gross approximation, it should be "people with a portfolio long on work and short on property", which includes most of today's young people but not all, and includes also a lot of older people who got shafted by Thatcher's and Blair's demolition of labor union infected industries and areas.


Do you see the problem with saying, on the one hand, that the utility functions of price-setters are irrational (or "frivolous"), while on the other hand assuming prices are nonetheless rational for purposes of productivity measurement?

If you properly propagated error terms for all the surveys and imputed inputs that go into the productivity statistic, would you get noise?


Interesting article but no mention is made of how the tax system is influencing people’s decision to retire early or downsize into part-time jobs. Many high earners have decided that it is not worth their while paying higher rate taxes, losing personal allowances and then getting penalised under LTA on their pensions. Witness the record numbers of GPs working part-time and retiring early to avoid LTA. We are good at crushing ambition.

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