Arnold Kling  

Geoffrey Miller, Masonomist

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Geoffrey Miller writes,


Many products are signals first and material objects second.

I am only a little way past the introduction to Spent. Tyler has already read it. So has Robin. So far, Miller hasn't told me anything that Robin did not already know.

One advantage that economists have over evolutionary psychologists in discussing signaling is that we know that signaling requires comparative advantage. As an employer, I want a signal that employees will be teachable. If non-teachable and teachable employees can both do well on aptitude tests, that is not a good signal. But if only teachable employees can sit through college classes and pass them, then a college degree is a good signal. The teachable employee has to have a comparative advantage in using the signal--otherwise the signal will not work. I have not read far enough to know whether Miller understands this point, or its significance.



COMMENTS (5 to date)
Robin Hanson writes:

You'll be dissappointed I think to find he doesn't understand your point, unless he convinces you that some combination of the big five personality factors is equivalent to teachability.

Mattyoung writes:

Let me take a shot.

Masonomics believes the economy always reverts to the natural level of uncertainty.

Franklin Harris writes:

I just started Spent, too, and I happened to think the other day, "This book would be better if Robin Hanson had written it."

Zac Gochenour writes:

Franklin Harris wrote, "This book would be better if Robin Hanson had written it."

I often think this when reading almost any book.

Alas he is only one man.

(At least, for now)

tom writes:

I am at the last chapter, Legalizing Freedom. I'm surprised that Robin Hanson didn't react more strongly to the naïve discussions of consumption taxes and of why GDP is inferior to indices that measure happiness and sustainability.

The last chapter reads like a psychologist talking about economics. His brief discussion of why we need to tax pineapples and bullets heavily, while not taxing universities (he ignores his own analysis of the signalling role of higher education) and iTunes downloads, is useless. It is best understood as a signal to his left-wing peers that he is--really!-- one of them, and that he can reach their conclusions through Ev. Psych.

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