The retreat of "scientific selfishness," a literature review

Neoclassical economics was built on the straw-man of "homo economicus," an inherently selfish utility-maximizing actor, and since the mid-1970s, we've been building systems and institutions that take this kind of sociopathic behavior for granted. Read the rest

Here are five scams visitors to Prague should know about

Honest Guide is a YouTube channel for people interested in visiting Prague. It's got tips and cautions that are great to know about in advance of going there. I wish there were similar YouTube channels for other places.

In its latest episode, Honest Guide describes five common scams that tourists should watch out for. The most interesting one is not so much a scam, but a sucker bet. Some guy has built a structure with a horizontal bar, sort of like a pull-up bar. He sets it up in the middle of Wenceslas Square and has a sign that tells people that if they can hang from it for two minutes, they make 5 times the money they paid for. But no one can do it because the bar spins, making it impossible to hang from.

The host also recorded a recent encounter with a scammer who drove up to him in a Mercerdes while he was sitting on a sidewalk bench. The scammer explained that he had lost his wallet and needed to buy gas. He gave the host his "valuable" ring as collateral, but the host started recording the scammer. The scammer threatened to call the cops, and when the host encouraged him to do so, the scammer quickly drove away.

(One of the many reasons I like Japan is that in the 8 times I've been there, no one has ever tried to cheat me.) Read the rest

"The Tragedy of the Commons": how ecofascism was smuggled into mainstream thought

Garrett Hardin's 1968 Science essay "The Tragedy of the Commons" is one of the most widely assigned readings in the past ten years' worth of university syllabi; notionally, it describes how property that is held in common is prone to overuse and exhaustion, while privatization creates an owner who has an incentive to serve as a wise steward over the resource. Read the rest

How "meritocracy" went from a joke to a dogma, and destroyed the lives of everyone it touched

The term "meritocracy" was coined in Michael Young's satirical 1958 novel, "The Rise of Meritocracy," where it described a kind of self-delusion in which rich people convinced themselves that their wealth was evidence of their moral superiority; it's well-documented that a belief in meritocracy makes you act like an asshole, and also makes you incapable of considering how much of your good fortune is attributable to luck; now, in a new book, The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits documents how a belief in meritocracy also makes rich people totally miserable. Read the rest

Wealth is correlated with greed, dishonesty and cheating -- are these effects or a causes?

There's a wealth of psychological research that correlates wealthy people in the real world with negative traits like rudeness (people driving fancier cars are less considerate of pedestrians and their likelihood of cutting off another driver is correlated to the cost of the driver's car); greed (rich people take more candies out of dishes set aside for kids than poor people); generalized unethical behavior; cheating at games of chance; and overall stinginess. Read the rest

Seattle cops announce registry for high-risk swatting targets

The Seattle Police Department, having coped with two (thankfully) nonlethal swatting incidents since June, has announced a registry where people worried they might be swatted (previously) can sign up; the registry is a modification of the existing, third-party, private-sector Smart911 system, and the SPD says that if your name is on it, they will tread extra-carefully in evaluating SWAT-like reports of hostage-taking, active shooters and other high-risk crimes at your home or office. (via /.) Read the rest

WATCH: women steal new lawn

Lancashire Police who viewed the video say: "Police have investigated this incident. We're at the stage that there are no further lines of inquiry but would appeal to anyone with information to come forward."

(Via Arbroath) Read the rest