May 3·edited May 3

Interesting collection. I have read your writings on many of them, but I have not read any of them first hand. I think my horizons will be greatly expanded by reading even just a few of these.

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I didn't know where else to make this comment, but I wanted to kvetch about Taleb's criticism of "The Millionaire Next Door" (which I've used in personal finance classes I've taught), as expressed in "Life in the Negative World." I'm not sure if you've read the original source material (I haven't read Taleb), but according to your summary, Taleb is full of crap on this.

In "Life in the Negative World,": "[Taleb] contends that simply looking at successful people's action's and then extrapolating lessons from what they did is subject to "survivorship bias." For example, the authors of The Millionaire Next Door looked at millionaires to see what they had in common, but they didn't examine the people who did the very same things yet ended up far less wealthy - or even bankrupt. By definition, the method excluded failures from the sample."

Yes, they interview a bunch of millionaires to find commonalities between them, but nowhere in the book do they say, "Do these things and you too will become a millionaire." And they did not only look at millionaires. Much of the book compares people with the same incomes but very different consumption and investment habits, which leads to very different net worths over time. If this isn't including "failures" in the sample, what would be? It's hard to imagine, as the habits emphasized are living well below one's means and investing the bulk of one's savings - how is a researcher going to identify people who did that but were "failures"?

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I recommend Kaufmann's other books for a frank and sometimes controversial view of demography:

Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? attempts to answer the question of whether or not religious people can triumph over secular people simply by outbreeding them.

Whiteshift explores the rise of right-wing populism in Western societies in relation to immigration and ethnic demographic change.

Also, your review of American Made notes that "Progressives like Stockman have an interest in ethnographic reporting and institutional support to do it. But conservatives do virtually no ethnographic writing or field research or much primary research of any kind—despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year on established think tanks and journalism. J. D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy is the exception that proves the rule."

I'd argue that Vance's memoir is fundamentally different from Stockman's because she comes from a very different background than the people she's reporting on, whereas Vance is reporting on his own community. So even then the weaknesses of conservative journalism are shown.

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