Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy (Mari Kondo)

I read these books not because I planned on following them literally, but because I was moving and I wanted to bias myself towards getting rid of stuff rather than keeping stuff.  This was a good plan that I recommend to anyone with similar goals.  Having a little voice in the back of your head saying “If it doesn’t spark joy you are morally obligated to throw it out” is a great counterpoint to your inner hoarder.  Now on to the epistemics.

These books are weirdly calming, because they’re so confidently wrong.  There’s no hedging, no complications, no conception that other people might operate differently than her, just her opinion/the right way to do things, which are one and the same.  I spend all day around people with very complicated models they are very tentative about, and it was relaxing to see someone fully commit to something.  Plus if something is almost true, it’s stressful to disagree with it.  If it’s so clearly wrong and not considering other options, disagreeing feels easy.

Kondo actually walks back a lot of the wrongness in the second book.  For example, she acknowledges that there are practical things you need to keep even if they don’t fill you with delight.

I think I also enjoyed the books because Mari Kondo and I have the same ultimate goal: human flourishing.  She has fixated on tidyness as the base of the pyramid that ends in utopia, and she’s doing what she can to make that happen.  Aside from her initial assumption that tidyness will fix everything wrong with your life, I agree with all of her logical steps.

Epistemic Spot Check Changes

Previously I checked books pretty much as I went along.  Doing otherwise felt like the check was playacting; if knowing wasn’t going to affect my behavior towards the book it was rigor theater, not genuinely caring about a book’s factual accuracy.  I’m backing off on that.  It prevents a book from gathering any momentum and it’s too easy to turn into cheap shots. Instead, for the mental health books, my default is going to be read the introduction and at least one other chapter, marking what I want to verify as I go, and circle back at the end of the second chapter to fact check.  This will give the books a little time to breathe and for me to evaluate their model.  It’s also way easier for me.

The exception  will be books where I get a stuck feeling and need to look something up to continue, or where I get nerd sniped.

Econtalk on Generic Medications

I’m pretty educated on the pharmaceutical industry for someone who doesn’t work anywhere near it, and last week’s Econtalk taught me a lot.  Here’s a teaser.

Developers of new medication are granted a limited term to sell that medication without competition, which generally makes the price higher.  This is useful because it creates an incentive for inventing new drugs.  But it’s costly, because the incentive is money consumers wouldn’t otherwise spend.  Sometimes companies claim patent protection for bullshit patents, just like the software industry.  Challenging these patents is costly; to incentivize generic manufacturers to do so, the government grants them a limited monopoly if a they win.  For six months only they and the inventor can sell the product.

Only the count starts when the second manufacturer brings their version to market, not when they win the case.  If they don’t release a product no one else can either, even if the drug moves off patent in the meantime.  Unsurprisingly, pharmaceutical research companies began paying off generic manufacturers to essentially win lawsuits and then never release a generic, thus extending their monopoly past the patent expiration.

Courts have mostly struck that down at this point, and companies have moved to either more subtle rent seeking (“how about we just pay you to manufacture the drug for us?”) or more antagonistic actions…

Dd you know that you can’t have a generic for a name-brand drug that’s no longer on the market?  I mean, you can, but doctors don’t write prescriptions for generics, they write it for the name brand and the pharmacist gives you the cheapest substitute.  But they can only do that if the name brand is theoretically available.  If a company, say, tweaks the formula in an absolutely irrelevant way and files a new patent on that, they can completely forestall generic competition until the new patent runs out.

Big pharma, I’m on your side.  I defend your monopoly profits more than almost anyone.  But you need to cut this shit out.