Tag Archives: podcasts

Creating Your Own Deflation

Tyler Cowen was on a podcast with James Altucher and at the ~25:30 mark, Tyler comments how “We can create our own forms of deflation as individual human beings.

They list a few examples:

  • Moving from the Upper West Side to Nashville
  • Getting a dog – high upfront costs today (and to be fair, plenty of maintenance costs…) but for years on the margin you will swap expensive nights on the town for free nights hanging with your pup
  • Playing chess
  • Not purchasing the weird old multi-$100 hardcover academic book on Amazon

My considerations of inflation have been limited to discussions on index components, labor/wage dynamics, and menu pricing. I liked the exercise of placing preferences surrounding good, services, and activities on the inflation/deflation spectrum.

What are other examples of inflationary/deflationary preferences? And what happens if you place inflation/deflation towards the center of your personal aesthetics? And if you do, which way on the spectrum should you optimize towards?

  • I bought a nice road bike during the pandemic and now spend hours a week riding it that might have otherwise been spent on spin classes (the upfront cost impacts the breakeven “deflation point” but still…)
  • Can you rank games on a deflationary spectrum? Settlers of Catan has expansion packs. A deck of playing cards provides fun for years. Aforementioned chess depends on just how long someone sticks with it. Is Dungeons and Dragons the ultimate deflationary game?
  • Wikipedia is deflationary for infovores
  • Are libraries more deflationary than book stores?
  • From an inflation viewpoint, is it better to go out for dinner with friends or invite them over to cook?
  • Drinking has to be inflationary
  • Is religion an inflationary or deflationary force?
  • What about dating and marriage? And at what phases?
  • AI and ML?
  • Fashion rentals company are getting more and more popular (and then you have places like Esty and Ebay):


Some of these are just examples of underutilized fixed assets being squeezed out of the economy. But others are aesthetic choices about how to spend your time. To the extent you can aspire to shift your preferences, which way should you attempt to move them?

I can imagine a nice deflationary life where I stretch my current assets to go very very far. But I suspect that might not lead to sustained happiness. And at the aggregate level my intuition is that would tend to decrease societal progress.

Be it because of some sort of mimetic desire dynamic or incentives in the job market or something else, I think we are probably a bit happier individually (and on the whole wealthier as a society) with inflation “at or around 2 percent.” But don’t let that hold you back from moving to Nashville!

July 14, 2021 Wednesday links

  1. Conversations with Tyler – Richard Prum on Birds, Beauty, and Finding Your Own Way (Ep. 126): “Well, that’s a really cool thing. Actually, if you go back to the gait of a crocodile or any tetrapod, the front legs and the hind legs were really coupled. You have to do that well. Going back, probably, in the very long bipedal theropod dinosaurs — long history of bipedality in theropod dinosaurs. Those things had to be uncoupled, and it required a lot of rewiring both of the motor movement, the brain, the muscles, et cetera. That’s ancient in the lineage of birds.andWe usually thought that you have social monogamy, at least two birds helping raise the young, because the young are so needy and they have to grow up quickly. But there’s another possibility, which is that they could evolve to be so needy and grow up quickly because they managed to get males at the nest.” andNow, sometimes albatrosses don’t breed until they’re 20 years old or even, on average, maybe it’s what — 10 years old. What are they doing in the meantime that’s so important?andThe real fundamental mystery is why do flowers smell beautiful? That one does not have [laughs], at least immediately, appealing answers because, it turns out, there are no receptor genes in common between a bee and a human, and they’re responding to the same flower odors in a similar way.andBees are making choices, and they’re making aesthetic choices based on the memorably rewarding experience of using a flower.and I think one of the things that can impress a person without the experience to understand that the hard work is worthwhile, or will be worthwhile, is spectacle.andThe scale of cat death — I don’t know the numbers, but way more birds are killed by cats than are killed by all the wind power in America. It’s devastating. It’s billions of birds.
  2. The Art of Fishing With Birds – youtube
  3. Sun Ra UFO Story as told by Brother Ah – youtube, via Ted Gioia
  4. Slow Boring on “Protesting Joe Biden thanks to a fundamental misreading of the situation” – hits on big points about how “people trying to defend the status quo almost always win in U.S. legislative fights because we have a lot of veto points” and how naming the solution is sometimes not the most productive course if “you are actually interested in constructive social change.” From interfluidity: “Durable change does not in fact come from crushing a near-equally-matched social enemy. It comes from cooptation until the rump social enemy is small, and can then be cleanly defeated… At home as abroad, the real struggle is always for hearts and minds. The rest is just carnage.”