The Trump memestock

I don’t usually cover news, but I want to highlight some recent finance shenanigans. Much of what I’m doing here is recapping the Wikipedia article, with some additional context.

Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) is a company that owns Truth Social—Donald Trump’s alternative to X. TMTG recently merged with Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC). DWAC is a type of company known as special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). A SPAC is basically an empty shell company, whose entire purpose is to go public (meaning, publicly traded on the stock market), and then merge with a private company so that the private company can be public. SPACs are a method of skipping the usual bureaucracy required to take a company public. (See: educational video on SPACs.)

In other words, thanks to this merger, it’s now possible to buy and sell shares of Donald Trump’s Twitter clone.

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The Friedman Doctrine and alternatives

One of the big criticisms of capitalism is that corporations are purely profit-seeking. If there’s ever an opportunity for a large corporation to work towards a social good, or to benefit the environment, the corporation won’t do it, except insofar as it benefits their stockholders. The corporation is practically obligated to be as greedy as possible. There’s a name for this: the Friedman Doctrine.

The Friedman Doctrine was coined by a 1970 article by economist Milton Friedman. Friedman argued that the social responsibility of a business executive is solely to increase the business’ profits. To prioritize anything else is to unilaterally take money from stockholders, employees, and/or customers, and spend the proceeds on whatever the business executive thinks is good. As a business philosophy, the Friedman Doctrine is considered to have been dominant from the 1980s to today.

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Theories of “mind” for corporations

Jack Saint recently made a video remarking on Netflix, and how Netflix appeared to be criticizing itself. He was talking about the show Dahmer, which Jack Saint felt was exploitative. And then an episode of Black Mirror appeared to make the same point by portraying an exploitative documentary that was obviously in reference to Dahmer. I will not comment on either show because I don’t like TV enough to watch the stuff, and I only really enjoy watching youtubers talk about TV I don’t watch.

However, I do have an opinion on the supposed hypocrisy of Netflix, for putting out two television shows that thematically contradict each other. When a corporation like Netflix is hypocritical, that’s obviously quite unlike individual hypocrisy. It’s not a single individual saying something and then doing a different thing. It’s two groups of individuals who disagree with each other despite their common affiliation. The Dahmer creators don’t think it’s exploitative (or don’t care), and the Black Mirror creators do. The executives above them don’t care enough to intervene either way. There’s no real hypocrisy on an individual level.

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Affirmative Action vs Fair Lending

The term “affirmative action” was originally created by John F. Kennedy in 1961, in the context of the employment of government contractors. But affirmative action has been very unpopular in the US, and was backed into a corner until it came to only refer to university admissions. Prior to the recent Supreme Court decision against affirmative action, the idea was already only hanging by a thread.

Now that the thread has been cut, I encourage people to imagine other possibilities. Previously, we could only ever talk about affirmative action in elite universities, because that was the only politically viable option. Now, none of the options are politically viable, so we might as well talk about the possibilities we forgot.

What if we had affirmative action… in hiring? Salaries? Political representation? Affirmative action tax breaks! If you’re outside the US, help me out here, what sort of affirmative action do they have in your country?
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Fair lending and discrimination

If a lender offered the same price (i.e. interest rate or APR) to every borrower, then it would only be a good deal for the riskiest borrowers. Lenders would have to raise prices to match the risk, and then it would only be a good deal for the riskiest of the riskiest borrowers. Lenders would have to raise prices further and further until there are no takers. This is called an adverse selection death spiral.

Therefore, lending fundamentally relies on offering different prices to different borrowers—and refusing some borrowers entirely. In other words, lending fundamentally relies on discrimination.

Lenders assess the risk of each borrower, in a process called underwriting, and make the decision whether to decline or approve, and at what price. Traditionally, underwriting has been done manually by human experts. It has also been performed by following pre-determined rules. More recently, many lenders are using machine learning to make underwriting decisions.

When we talk about discrimination, usually we’re talking about “bad” discrimination, such as sexism or racism. But in general, discrimination is just about treating different people differently, and that in itself is not bad. Nonetheless, legitimate discrimination can be used to conceal bad discrimination. Bad discrimination can also occur unintentionally, being concealed even to its purveyors. Fair lending regulations try to delineate and mitigate bad discrimination in lending.

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Not for Broadcast’s bizarre politics

Not for Broadcast is a comedy FMV game about managing a television broadcast. This essay is emphatically not a review, meaning that I have no intention of recommending one way or another whether you ought to play it. Rather, I’m interested in discussing its story about liberal fascists. I will also get into spoilers—warnings when I get there.

What is Not for Broadcast?

Not for Broadcast is at its core a multi-tasking game. You must divide your attention between cutting between multiple cameras, bleeping out swear words on a two second delay, adjusting for interference, and don’t forget to actually pay attention to the show that you’re editing, so you can follow the story.

There’s no mechanical benefit to following the story, so in my experience, it got lowest priority. The game delivers a unique experience where the narrative is delivered through a fog of distraction. This aligns with the narrative of the game, which is about a government that distracts from the real issues by filling broadcast news with fluff. Of course, to actually appreciate what the game was doing, I watched the archived footage afterwards. Paying attention would often cast segments in a whole new light.

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Mixed race in the 2020 US Census

TL;DR: The 2020 US Census shows a very large increase in the “Two or More Races” group. However, at least some of this likely has to do with changes in the question design and coding procedures, and shifting constructions of race.

The US Census construction of Race

When the US Census asks about race and ethnicity, it tries to reflect the way that racial/ethnic identity is constructed in the United States, but it also has to obey certain constraints. As a result there are some outstanding differences between race as it is constructed by US residents, and race as it is constructed by the US Census. For example, Middle Eastern Americans often do not identify as White, and are not perceived as White (and I suspect this perception has increased since 9/11), but in the US Census they are still classified as white.

Another outstanding difference is in how the US Census defines “race” vs “ethnicity”. According to the Census, “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin” and its negation are the only ethnic categories, and are excluded from the racial categories. I can say from my own experience with surveys, that this system is really weird, and causes no end of confusion among respondents.

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