Harry and Hermione

Ilya Somin notes that J. K. Rowlings has acknowledged that she might have made a mistake pairing Hermione with Ron rather than with Harry, who would have suited Hermione more. That is the way many fans no doubt reacted to the book.

This mistake is not made by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.  If you haven’t read it, you should definitely give it a try.  Quite a good read and much more intellectually interesting than Rowling’s books.

The Methods of Rationality uses an alternative version of the Harry Potter stories to illustrate cognitive biases and the methods by which people can behave more rationally.  But it does so in a way that does not seem like preaching — it is all well integrated into the story.  Still, the chapter titles make reference to the psychological literature, such as Bayes Theorem or the Stanford Prison Experiment — although in this case the prison is Azkaban.

While the science discussed in the story is excellent, perhaps the best part of the book is how it takes another look at J.K. Rowling’s world and attempts to discuss and correct some of the peculiarities.  While Rowling frowned on Azkaban and the dementors, Methods of Rationality puts front and center the evil of Azkaban, which when you think about it, turns out to be a prison with constant torture of its inmates.  And another such correction is the pairing of Hermione and Ron, which Methods of Rationality corrects.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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  1. says

    All the points James Kwak mntinoes are true. But one catch one that adds to the utility of owning is that many of the risks of the owner, of the landlord, in a rental are passed on to tenants anyway at least in absurdly overpriced markets like New York or Boston or San Francisco. The New York City government goes to considerable lengths to prop up the housing market, trying to keep the housing bubble inflated, insulating landlords from competition, packing supposedly impartial agencies (like New York’s Rent Guidelines Board) with predominantly pro-landlord decision-makers.Housing prices decline, landlords raise rents. Fuel costs go up 5%, landlords raise rents 10%. Unit is rent-stabilized, landlord paints and sands, calls unit remodeled and takes it off rent-stabilization. Asymmetries in information abound. Landlords, especially larger ones (and by that I mean any landlord large enough to make a living off renting), will likely (if they are rational) put in a good deal of effort to be informed both about the specifics of his or her property and about the general market. Tenants must devote their resources elsewhere. Landlords are comparatively organized and concentrated in their lobbying power. Years ago, Harvard law professor Duncan Kennedy suggested Boston institute a housing ombudsman to allow tenants to appeal rent increases that often exceeded 10%. Great idea, went nowhere.I’ve been a tenant for over 20 years. I’ve had perhaps two good landlords in that time (out of over 15). Admittedly, I’ve been a tenant in two terrible markets most of that time Boston and New York. People I know in other regions have better tales. My conviction is that landlords make a business of taking advantage of less-informed, less-advantaged tenants. The term landlord has feudal roots it’s a feudal institution.

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