Weekly Digest 6/28/18

Morgan Housel on how long tails drive everything, not just VC returns (1,150 words) – Although Disney had hundreds of hours of film by 1938, the only one that mattered financially was Snow White. The gain in the S&P 500 is driven by a smaller percentage of companies. The reason Berkshire Hathaway was so much better than its competitors was because of just a few investments. And of course, “reading this means you belong to the only species out of 8.7 million on this planet that can read. And our planet is the only one out of 100 billion in our galaxy that we know has life. So just reading this article is the result of the longest tail you can imagine.”

Castration through the ages (1,900 words) – Eunuchs were taller and stronger than normal men on average. Castration is obviously viewed as a punishment nowadays, but there were times in history when people volunteered for it.

Tyler Cowen on immigration (800 words) – “The higher a migrant’s chance of being able to remain in the U.S., and of being treated humanely along the way, the more migrants will come and the greater the risks they will take to get here. Unfortunately, that will mean higher death rates and also more risk to children. Many EU nations offer subsidies to help asylum-seekers to resettle, for instance, but that also encourages more people to attempt the journey; by one estimate, in the last quarter century more than 33,000 migrants and refugees have died trying to reach Europe.” In other words, immigration is hard. Tyler’s prescription? “So my grand immigration bargain looks like this: much more legal immigration, safe routes of transit, better enforcement at the border and restricted asylum rights. Right now, that seems far away. In the meantime, the problems will fester.”

The decline of NYC (13,500 words) – Kevin Baker laments how NYC has changed for the worse; his complaints are applicable in one way or another to all large American cities, and probably all large cities in the world. The cost of living in NYC has increased much faster than the wages earned by the lower and middle classes, making it more and more unaffordable. Homelessness is a bigger problem now more than ever, and the lower and middle classes are subsidizing the ultra-wealthy because of how tax revenues are deployed. Many of the new luxury apartments that are built are vacant or purchased by foreign billionaires who use the apartments either as an investment or a store of value.

Camille Baker’s Nautilus piece on how different cultures view and interpret smiles (3,150 words)


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