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

On time management

…it is worse to busy yourself with the trivial than to do nothing.

Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Knowledge of things forgotten

My very short story “Knowledge of things forgotten” is now available online.

Some things are learned, and some things are forgotten, and some things are known without being learned. The crow watching sunlight glint from the brass buttons of Charlie’s jacket knew many things.

Read the whole piece.

Rich in contentment

My essay “Rich in contentment” is now available online.

My dad is the restless type, and when I was a kid he changed jobs every few years. That usually meant a move to another state. We would move everything ourselves, loading streams of cardboard boxes into the backs of rented moving trucks. Sometimes, when we moved, we would find boxes that hadn’t been opened since the last move, and we would just move them again. We also moved boxes full of junk, things like wire hangers and busted toasters that we were never going to use.

We wouldn’t have paid money for that stuff, but we paid with our sweat to keep it. We weren’t the only ones to hang on to things like that. Other families do it, too, stuffing their closets and their attics, filling their garages until they have to park their cars outside, even renting storage space.

Why do we keep things we would never buy? Sentimental value can’t explain it. May the day never come when I develop an emotional attachment to a busted toaster. Ignorance or indifference can’t explain it. All of the boxes were labeled with their contents before we loaded them into the trucks.

Economists have discovered something that can explain it, and what they have discovered has implications that go well beyond crowded closets and garages. Their discovery links the clutter in our closets to what the Bible teaches about contentment in difficult circumstances.

Read the whole piece.