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Comparative Advantage: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed – Article by Michael Munger

Comparative Advantage: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed – Article by Michael Munger

The New Renaissance HatMichael Munger

The Division of Labor Is the Engine That Drives Prosperity

Many economists will tell you that the most important principle in economics is comparative advantage — the idea that it is expensive to grow oranges in Alaska or to flood rice paddies in Saudi Arabia, so Alaska and Saudi Arabia should import oranges and rice, respectively, and base local production on the advantages of local conditions. We got this idea from classical economist David Ricardo, who famously observed in 1821 that England and Portugal would both be wealthier if Portugal exported its wine and imported England’s textiles, and vice versa.

Ricardo’s principle even demonstrated the advantages of trading with those who are less productive at everything. For example, my wife is an attorney. She is also a fast and accurate typist. Yet she hires a secretary who is considerably slower at typing. Secretaries get paid less than attorneys, so if my wife specializes in law and the secretary specializes in typing, my wife can earn more for her firm and a secretary gets a job. Both end up better off. That’s true even though my wife is better at both jobs: comparative advantage means trade helps everyone.

Division of Labor Trumps Comparative Advantage

The problem is that fixed comparative advantage — derived from weather, culture, and location — is vanishing in the modern world. Ricardo’s classical formulation leaves no space for human creativity, no role for division of labor, and no room for innovation to affect the dynamics of cost.

So economists have it wrong, as my friend Russ Roberts argued in 2010. The most important principle in economics is opportunity cost. Here’s proof: you can define opportunity cost without resorting to comparative advantage. But you can’t possibly define comparative advantage without invoking opportunity cost.

The notion of comparative advantage is empirically misleading, because it sounds deterministic. There are few situations where fixed factors make the relative opportunity costs of different actions immutable. Instead, cost and productivity differences are endogenous, the consequence of human ingenuity and the division of labor. Today’s cost advantage for one country may disappear if another country finds a better, cheaper way to produce the product. And the way to specialize is to exploit the division of labor.

Sock City

What nation lost the most manufacturing jobs from 1990 to 2000? China. That may seem surprising, given the media stereotype of how we “ship US jobs overseas,” but it’s true (PDF). In 1990, Chinese manufacturing meant large sheds filled with hundreds of people working with sewing machines and other small tools. The scale was huge, with at least 100 million manufacturing workers. But productivity was terrible.

In the late 1990s, China began to automate, taking advantage of division of labor. A thousand women with sewing machines in a barn turned into 25 women running enormous machines in a factory, with a gigantic increase in productivity. A fraction of the workers produced 10 times as much output, increasing productivity a hundredfold and forcing 97.5 percent of the workers out. But those workers found new jobs, as China used the division of labor more and more effectively. The country’s advantage was not climate, not soil quality, but human action consciously designing production processes that were cheaper and faster.

Nowhere did productivity rise faster than in the city of Datang in Guangdong Province. Part of Datang is actually called “Sock City,” because more than a third of all socks sold in the entire world (yes, the world) are manufactured there. Datang boasts more than 8,000 hosiery makers ringing the city center, and they produced more than 11 billion pairs of socks in 2012. The socks you’ll find at Walmart — or even at Neiman Marcus or another more upscale store — were likely made in or around Datang.

The concentration of manufacturing at Sock City means this: there is a well-developed labor market for exotic sock-making specialties. The occupations that are well known in Datang don’t exist elsewhere, because no other location has been able to take such full advantage of the division of labor. What limits the division of labor in Datang? Only the extent of the market, just as Adam Smith said in The Wealth of Nations. And remember that Datang is producing at a rate of nearly two pairs of socks per year, for every human on the planet. Datang’s market is Earth.

It wasn’t always that way. Datang does not have any comparative advantage, at least not in the way Ricardo meant. The climate is not especially favorable, the city is not near an essential natural-resource base, and sock making is not part of traditional culture. Datang’s dominance is new and is overtaking historical frontrunners like Fort Payne, Alabama, the self-proclaimed Sock Capital of the World.

Fort Payne “began making stockings in 1907 and once boasted of producing 1 of every 8 pairs worn on the planet,” writes Don Lee in “The New Foreign Aid,” published April 10, 2005, in the Los Angeles Times. However, he explains,

China’s advantages in the global marketplace are moving well beyond cheap equipment, material and labor. The country also exploits something called clustering in a way that the United States just can’t match.… Industrial clusters are like one-stop production centers, achieving economies of scale and driving innovation by geographically bunching suppliers, manufacturers and contractors.…

Meanwhile, American producers, pummeled by imports from China and elsewhere, saw their share of the US hosiery market fall from 69% in 2000 to 44% in 2003, according to the latest industry data.

Comparative advantage is fixed and exogenous. Opportunity cost is mutable, the product of innovation. Datang’s Sock City itself may soon lose its dominance.

Who “should” produce socks? Comparative advantage here is no guide; the situation is more like comparing two street porters who appear to be quite similar. One of the street porters figures out ways to make socks much more cheaply. Over time, the advantage in opportunity cost grows because of the improvements in dexterity, tool use, and design of new production processes. Human ingenuity created an opportunity for nations to specialize in activities where their opportunity costs were lower. Specialization and trade are what produce prosperity, and opportunity costs guide the choice of what each country should specialize in. My comparative advantage today may be your comparative advantage next year. But all the street porters started out the same.

Focus on Opportunity Cost

Economists routinely act as if three related key concepts — division of labor, comparative advantage, and opportunity cost — are distinct.

They are not. Comparative advantage is not a separate concept at all. It is simply an explanation of the implications of the division of labor (the engine that drives prosperity) and opportunity cost (the concept that guides the choice of which activities a person, or a nation, should specialize in).

Admittedly, it was a significant intellectual achievement to show that the weaker trading partner benefits from trade, even if the stronger partner is better at everything. But those fixed differences have largely disappeared in many markets. The question of what should be produced, and where, is now answered by dynamic processes of market signals and price movements, driven by human ingenuity and creativity. The cost savings resulting from successfully dividing labor and automating production processes dwarf the considerations that made comparative advantage a useful concept in economics.

Let’s downgrade comparative advantage from our list of key concepts in economics, and recognize that the human mind is the mainspring of a market economy.

Michael Munger is the director of the philosophy, politics, and economics program at Duke University. He is a past president of the Public Choice Society.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

A College Degree Does Not Make You a Million Dollars – Article by Andrew Syrios

A College Degree Does Not Make You a Million Dollars – Article by Andrew Syrios

The New Renaissance Hat
Andrew Syrios
April 13, 2014

It is becoming substantially less difficult these days to convince people that college is not a sure fire way to the good life. Even Paul Krugman has conceded that “it’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job.” You can say that again: 53 percent of recent graduates are either jobless or underemployed. Unfortunately, myths die hard. Many people still believe as Hillary Clinton once said, “Graduates from four-year colleges earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more [than high school graduates].” This may sound convincing, but this figure — based on a Census Bureau report — is about as true as it is relevant.

After all, isn’t it true that the most hard-working and intelligent people tend more to go to college? This is not a nature vs. nurture argument, the factors behind these qualities are unrelated to the discussion at hand. If one grants, however, that the more ambitious and talented go to college in greater proportion than their peers, Mrs. Clinton could have just said “the most hard-working and intelligent earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more than their peers.” I think the presses need not be stopped.

For one thing, the Census Bureau estimate includes super-earners such as CEO’s which skew the average upward. Although some, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, didn’t graduate college, most did. This is why it’s better to use the median (the middle number in the data set) than the mean or average. It’s also why Hillary Clinton and other repeaters of this factoid don’t.

Furthermore, just because most smart people go to college doesn’t mean they should. They may earn more money, but what they keep is more important than what they make. Financial columnist Jack Hough created a very illuminating hypothetical scenario with two people, one who chooses college and one who enters the labor force after high school. Hough then uses the average cost of college as well as U.S. Census Bureau data for the average income of college graduates and non-graduates, adjusted for age. He assumes both save and invest 5 percent of their income each year. By the age of 65, how does the net worth of each look?

  • College Graduate: $400,000
  • High School Graduate: $1,300,000

When one thinks about the common narrative of college vs. no college, it truly becomes absurd. Indeed, who exactly are we comparing? We’re not only comparing Jane-Lawyer to Joe-Carpenter, but we’re also comparing financial analysts with the mentally disabled, medical doctors with welfare dependents, building engineers with drug addicts, architects with pan handlers, marketing directors with immigrants who can barely speak English, and university professors with career criminals (whose earnings, by the way, are rarely reported). Many of these troubled people didn’t graduate high school, but it is shocking how they shuffle kids through the system these days. Some 50 percent of Detroit high school graduates are functionally illiterate and it isn’t that much better for the country on the whole. And something tells me that these particular non-graduates need something other than four years of drinking and studying Lockean (well, more likely Marxian) philosophy.

It certainly could be a good thing to earn a college degree. If one wants to be an accountant, engineer, or doctor, a degree is required. And those jobs have very high incomes. But can one really expect to make a killing with a degree in sociology or Medieval-African-Women’s-Military-Ethnic Studies? Pretty much the only jobs those degrees help one get, in any way other than the “hey, they got a college degree” sort of way, are jobs teaching sociology or Medieval-African-Women’s-Military-Ethnic Studies. And that requires an advanced degree as well (i.e., more money down the tube).

Furthermore, a college degree does not even guarantee a particularly high income. CBS News ran an article on the 20 worst-paying college degrees. The worst was Child and Family Studies with a starting average salary of $29,500 and a mid-career average of $38,400. Art History came in 20th with a starting average of $39,400 and a mid-career average of $57,100. Other degrees in between included elementary education, culinary arts, religious studies, nutrition, and music.

These are decent salaries, but are they worth the monetary and opportunity costs? With the wealth of information on the Internet, many skills can be attained on one’s own. Alternatives to college such as entrepreneurship and apprenticeship programs are often ignored. Indeed, apprentices typically get paid for their work while they are learning. The average yearly wage of a plumber and electrician are $52,950 and $53,030 respectively. That’s better than many college degrees and comes without the debt.

And that debt is getting bigger and bigger as college tuition continues to rise. In the last five years, tuition has gone up 24 percent more than inflation. Including books, supplies, transportation and other costs, in-state college students paid an average of $17,860 for one year in 2013 (out-of-state students paid substantially more). And despite all of that, many students don’t even finish. According to US News & World Report,

Studies have shown that nonselective colleges graduate, on average, 35 percent of their students, while the most competitive schools graduate 88 percent. Harvard’s 97 percent four-year graduation rate might not be that surprising … [but then] Texas Southern University’s rate was 12 percent.

12 percent is simply ridiculous, but the 35 percent for nonselective schools is extremely bad as well. Even the 88 percent for competitive schools leaves 12 percent of their students with no degree, but plenty of debt.

Given all of that, it can’t be surprising that the default rates on student loans (which cannot be wiped away in bankruptcy) appear to be much higher than is typically reported. According to The Chronicle,

[O]ne in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default. The default rate is higher for loans made to students from two-year colleges, and higher still, reaching 40 percent, for those who attended for-profit institutions …

[T]he government’s official “cohort-default rate,” which measures the percentage of borrowers who default in the first two years of repayment and is used to penalize colleges with high rates, downplays the long-term cost of defaults, capturing only a sliver of the loans that eventually lapse …

College is good for some people. If you want to go into a field that has high earning potential (engineering, medicine, accounting, etc.) or you really like a certain subject and want to dedicate your career to it even if it may not be the best financial decision, go for it. But don’t go to college just because as Colin Hanks says in Orange County, “that’s what you do after high school!”

Andrew Syrios is a Kansas City-based real estate investor and partner with Stewardship Properties. He also blogs at See Andrew Syrios’s article archives.

This article was published on and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Futile Temporary Totalitarianism in Boston – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Futile Temporary Totalitarianism in Boston – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, showed all too clearly that totalitarianism does not need decades of incremental legislation and regimentation to come to this country. All it needs is the now-pervasive fear of “terrorism” – a fear which can give one man the power to shut down the economic life of an entire city for a day.

This video is based on Mr. Stolyarov’s recent essay, “Futile Temporary Totalitarianism in Boston“.


-“U.S. Cities With Bigger Economies Than Entire Countries” – Wall Street Journal – July 20, 2012
– “Adding up the financial costs of the Boston bombings” – Bill Dedman and John Schoen, NBC News – April 30, 2013
– “United Airlines Flight 93” – Wikipedia
– “Richard Reid” – Wikipedia
– “Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab” – Wikipedia
– “Homicides decrease in Boston for third straight year” – Matt Carroll, The Boston Globe – January 1, 2013
– “List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year” – Wikipedia
– “How Scared of Terrorism Should You Be?” – Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine – September 6, 2011
– “Terrorism Risk Insurance Act” – Wikipedia
– “Business Frets at Terrorism Tag of Marathon Attack” – Associated Press – May 13, 2013
– “TIME/CNN Poll Shows Increasing Number Of Americans Won’t Give Up Civil Liberties To Fight Terrorism” – Tim Cushing, TechDirt – May 6, 2013

Futile Temporary Totalitarianism in Boston – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Futile Temporary Totalitarianism in Boston – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 13, 2013

Everyday life in the United States is still semi-free most of the time, if one goes about one’s own business and avoids flying or crossing the border. Yet, the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, showed all too clearly that totalitarianism does not need decades of incremental legislation and regimentation to come to this country. All it needs is the now-pervasive fear of “terrorism” – a fear which can give one man the power to shut down the economic life of an entire city for a day.

The annual Gross Domestic Product of Boston is approximately $326 billion (based on 2011 figures from the Wall Street Journal). For one day, Boston’s GDP can be roughly estimated as ($326 billion)/365 = $893.15 million. Making the rather conservative assumption that only about half of a city’s economic activity would require people to leave their homes in any way, one can estimate the economic losses due to the Boston lockdown to be around $447 million. By contrast, how much damaged property and medical costs resulted directly from the criminal act committed by the Chechen nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist brothers Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev? An NBC News article detailing the economic damages from the bombing estimates total medical costs to be in excess of $9 million, while total losses within the “impact zone” designated by the Boston Police Department are about $10 million. To give us a wide margin of error again, let us double these estimates and assume that the bombers inflicted total economic damage of $38 million. The economic damage done by the lockdown would still exceed this total by a factor of about 11.76 – more than an order of magnitude!

It is true, of course, that the cost in terms of the length and quality of life for the three people killed and the 264 people injured by the bombings cannot be accounted for in monetary terms. But I wonder: how many years of life will $447 million in lost economic gains deprive from the population of Boston put together – especially when one considers that these economic losses affect life-sustaining sectors such as medical care and pharmaceuticals? Furthermore, to what extent would this lost productivity forestall the advent of future advances that could have lengthened people’s lives one day sooner? One will most likely never know, but the reality of opportunity cost is nonetheless always with us, and surely, some massive opportunity costs were incurred during the Boston lockdown.  Moreover, one type of damage does not justify or excuse another. However horrific the Boston bombings were, they were not a reason to further hinder innocent people.

Bad policy is the surest and most powerful ally of malicious, hate-driven miscreants like the Tsarnaev brothers. On April 19, the day of the lockdown, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the sole surviving Boston Marathon bomber, hid inside a boat in a private backyard, incapacitated and nearly dead from a botched suicide attempt. Dzokhar wanted only to end his own life, and yet he could never have caused more trouble than he did during those hours, because, while the lockdown was in place, bad policy was inflicting more economic damage than the Tsarnaev brothers’ crude and clumsy attack could ever have unleashed on its own.

Only after the lockdown was lifted could a private citizen, David Henneberry, leave his house and notice that his boat had a loose cover. As Thomas Jefferson would have told the Bostonians, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Virtually every time malicious plots against innocent civilians are actually foiled – be it the takedown of United Airlines Flight 93 or the arrests of attempted “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – it is the vigilance of ordinary but courageous individuals that truly enhances the safety of us all.  Policies that create martial law, prevent people from leading their lives, and result in SWAT-style “sweeps” of people’s homes in search of a single individual not only do nothing to actually help capture the violent wrongdoer, but also subvert the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for many orders of magnitude more people than any criminal cell could ever hope to undermine on its own.

Would any other dangerous condition, one not thought to be “terrorism,” ever provoke such a wildly disproportionate and oppressive reaction? Consider that Boston had 58 homicides in the year 2012. Many cities’ murder rates are much higher, sometimes reaching an average of one murder per day. Was a lockdown initiated for every third homicide in any American city? Traffic fatalities claim over 30,000 lives in the United States every year – or 10,000 times the death toll of the Boston Marathon bombing, and ten times the death toll of even the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Are entire neighborhoods shut down every time there is a deadly car crash? If this were the accepted practice, all economic life – indeed most life in general – in the United States would grind to a halt.  Yet, while the most likely and widespread threats to our lives come from very mundane sources, bad policies and distorted public perceptions of risk are motivated by fear of the unusual, the grotesque, the sensational and sensationalized kinds of death. And yet, in spite of fear-mongering by politicians, the media, special interests, and those who rely exclusively on sound bites, the threat to one’s personal safety from a terrorist act is so minuscule as to safely be ignored. In fact, as Ronald Bailey of Reason Magazine discusses, the odds of being killed by a lightning bolt are about four times greater!

 Ironically enough, the very act that precipitated the Boston lockdown might not even officially be designated a terrorist act after all. If you thought that this was because politicians are suddenly coming to their senses, think again. The real reason is somewhat less intuitive and relates to insurance coverage for the businesses damaged by the attacks. Most commercial property and business-interruption insurance policies will cover losses from criminal acts, but explicitly exclude coverage for acts of terrorism, unless the business purchases special terrorism coverage reinsured by the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. However, for the terrorism exclusions in many ordinary commercial insurance policies to apply, an act of terrorism has to be formally certified as such by the Secretary of the Treasury (and sometimes other officials, such as the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security). (For more details on this turn of events, read “Business Frets at Terrorism Tag of Marathon Attack” by the Associated Press.) The affected businesses really do not want the bombings to be formally classified as terrorism, as this will impede the businesses’ ability to obtain the insurance proceeds which would be integral to their recovery.

 I have no objection to the federal government refraining from certifying the bombings as a terrorist act in an effort to avoid needless bureaucratic complications that would impede recovery. However, I also detest Orwellian doublethink. If the bombings are not terrorism for one purpose, then they cannot be terrorism in any other sense. If they will not be used to justify depriving businesses of insurance proceeds, then surely they must not be used to deprive the rest of us of our freedom to move about as we wish, to pursue our economic aspirations, to retain the privacy of our homes, and to otherwise lead our lives in peace. If the bombings are not certified as terrorism, then all fear-mongering rhetoric by federal politicians about the need to heighten “security” in response to this “terrorist” act should cease as well. The law of non-contradiction is one type of law that our politicians – and the people of the United States more generally – urgently need to recognize.

I certainly hope that no future bombings of public events occur in the United States, not only out of a desire to preserve the lives of my fellow human beings, but also out of grave concern for the possibly totalitarian reaction that would follow any such heinous act. I enjoy living in peace and relative freedom day to day, but I know that it is only by the grace and perhaps the laziness of America’s political masters that I am able to do so. I continue to hope for an amazing run of good luck with regard to the non-occurrence of any particularly visible instances of mass crime, so that the people of the United States can find the time to gradually become enlightened about the real risks in their lives and the genuinely effective strategies for reducing those risks. There is hope that the American people are gradually regaining their common sense; perhaps they will drag the politicians toward reason with them – however reluctant the politicians might be to pursue sensible policies for a change.

On Costs and Opportunity Costs of Aging – Article by Reason

On Costs and Opportunity Costs of Aging – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
April 7, 2013

Originally published on the Fight Aging! website.

Few people seem terribly interested in noting the opportunity costs of aging, for all that a great deal of work goes into trying to build models for the direct costs. Insurers, government program administrators, and so forth, are all eager to put numbers to their potential future outlays – but they have fewer incentives to work on better numbers for the lost ability to earn that comes with advancing age. Here are some figures from a recent paper on dementia in the US, for example:

The estimated prevalence of dementia among persons older than 70 years of age in the United States in 2010 was 14.7%. The yearly monetary cost per person that was attributable to dementia was either $56,290 (95% confidence interval [CI], $42,746 to $69,834) or $41,689 (95% CI, $31,017 to $52,362), depending on the method used to value informal care. These individual costs suggest that the total monetary cost of dementia in 2010 was between $157 billion and $215 billion. Dementia represents a substantial financial burden on society, one that is similar to the financial burden of heart disease and cancer.

If you go digging around in US census data on income, or the quick summaries thereof, you’ll see that median income sits somewhere a little under $40,000/year in the prime earning years of life. It tapers off to a little more than half of that for surviving members of the 75 and older demographic. So while one of seven completely median older people incurs costs of roughly $40,000/year for dementia, all seven completely median older people suffer an opportunity cost of roughly $20,000/year as a result of becoming old. A range of income that might have been earned if still healthy and vigorous is no longer within reach.

These are very rough and ready comparisons, but you can see that even piling in a bunch of other direct medical costs for the rest of the population – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and the other common foes – the opportunity costs of being old still look sizable in comparison. In another study that gives average medical costs over time for people in Japan aged between 40 and 80 followed over 13 years, the average yearly expenditure was in the ~$3,500 range, rising to more like ~$25,000 in the last year prior to death. The error bars for casual use of any of the numbers mentioned in this post are large – probably a factor of two, given all of the oddities and politics that goes into medical expenditures and recording of income, and especially when comparing data between different regions on the world. But you can still draw very rough conclusions about relative sizes.

Lastly, I should note that all of the above only considers the living. Once you get to the age 75 demographic in the US, half of the original population is dead, give or take. The dead accrue even higher opportunity costs than those mentioned above, as they have (for the most part) lost all ability to earn or contribute to building new things.

So aging causes a largely unseen cost to go along with what is seen, the cost of what might have been but for disability and death. As is often the case, the cost of research and development to build the means of rejuvenation is small in comparison to what is lost to aging – and also in comparison to what is spent in coping with the aftermath of loss rather than trying to prevent it.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.  

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license.  It was originally published on

Unconventional Thinking and Pluralistic Societies – Post by G. Stolyarov II

Unconventional Thinking and Pluralistic Societies – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 3, 2012

I was recently asked whether, with respect to those of us in today’s Western world who think unconventionally, “even if we wouldn’t be physically persecuted, aren’t there certain ‘sacred cows’ that must be respected even to get a hearing in today’s society?

This is somewhat true, though increasingly less so as there come to be more diverse outlets for intellectual expression. This is where a pluralistic society actually greatly benefits individual creativity and freedom: if one outlet is closed (because one’s views are deemed “politically incorrect” or some other variant of “incorrect”), others may still welcome one’s ideas. I have seen this a lot with economics in recent years, as alternatives to the conventional Keynesian and Neoclassical schools are becoming more prominent and respected.

Furthermore, different thinkers may be deterred by “soft” censure to different degrees. Some people could not care less and would be content to be pariahs, as long as they were permitted to pursue their work in peace. Others will try to be more diplomatic and tiptoe around the “sacred cows” while subtly injecting their own ideas into public discussion. Others still will try to obtain independent sources of support, outside the paradigm they are trying to influence, and in this way “buy” themselves time and influence. It is true that being outside of the “mainstream” today will probably deny one certain opportunities – but virtually every major intellectual or career choice will do the same. One trades some possibilities for others; the important question is whether those tradeoffs are palatable in the sense of achieving one’s own goals while enabling one to lead a reasonably comfortable life.