On anxiety

Sima Niu asked about the gentleman.

The Master replied, “The gentleman is free of anxiety and fear.”

“‘Free of anxiety and fear’ – is that all there is to being a gentleman?”

“If you can look inside yourself and find no faults, what cause is there for anxiety or fear?” 

Confucius: Analects 12.4, translated by Edward Slingerland

On conforming to the ideals of others

The Master said, “When the Way was being practiced in his state, Ning Wuzi was wise, but when the Way was not being practiced, he was stupid.  His wisdom can be equaled, but no one can equal his stupidity.”

Confucius: Analects 5.21, translated by Edward Slingerland

On being whatever you want to be

When it comes to business … and surviving in the ruthless Hobbesian jungle, where much more is winner-take-all than it once was, the idea that you can be whatever you want to be, or build whatever you want to build, is a sure path to a short, unhappy existence.

Eugene Wei, Invisible asymptotes

On gratitude

From everything that comes about in the universe one may easily find cause to praise providence if one possesses these two qualities, the capacity to view each particular event in relation to the whole, and a sense of gratitude.  For, otherwise, one will either fail to recognize the usefulness of what has come about, or else fail to be truly grateful if one does in fact recognize it.

Epictetus, Discourses 1.6.1-2

Welfare, the Stoics, and reference dependence

My essay on the relationship between Stoic and economic ideas about welfare has been published in the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Economic accounts of consumer welfare focus heavily on the physical circumstances of the consumer.  In contrast, in many religious and philosophical traditions, welfare is thought to be largely independent of physical circumstances.  This essay argues that the introduction of reference dependence enriches economic models of choice in a way that connects the economic account of welfare with the contrasting account offered by the Stoics….

The full abstract is available online.


On execution

Faulty execution does less harm than a lack of execution.  Materials turn bad more often in repose than in motion.

Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

The retreat of the rural entrepreneur

My new report on rural entrepreneurship is now available online.

In 1988, more than a fourth of the self-employed lived in rural areas. By 2016, that share had fallen to less than 1 in 6. This report shows that the decline was caused by a population shift away from rural areas and a fall in the rural rate of self-employment. Between 1988 and 2016, the rural rate of self-employment fell by over 20 percent. Despite that decline, the rate of self-employment has remained higher in rural areas than in other areas.

Read more.

On consensus

Somehow, people have to learn that consensus is a huge problem. There’s no “arithmetic consensus” because it doesn’t require a consensus…. In general, consensus is how we bully people into pretending that there’s nothing to see….

Eric Weinstein, as quoted by Tim Ferriss in Tools of Titans