My name is Tejas Subramaniam. I am a 17-year-old high school senior from Chennai, India. Currently, much of my time is dedicated to researching ways to improve our understanding of sexual violence and effective methods to reduce its incidence (a project supported by Emergent Ventures). I am interested in economics, statistics, international development, comparative politics, and game theory. I also have some background in competitive formal debate, having represented India at three World Schools Debating Championships.
This blog is a collection of some of my thoughts, typically related to social science-related issues and philosophy. Follow me on Twitter for thoughts that are too short or too non-rigorous to put on this blog. (You can find some earlier work of mine archived at GoTejas.com. Most of the posts there do not reflect my current opinions and they are frequently not very rigorous. In general, I have become less certain about most public policy issues. I have also become significantly less left-wing than I used to be.)
Where to start?
The amount of content this blog has is fairly small. I recommend you start with these:
- Beef bans likely reduce animal welfare
- Contra Mankiw on political philosophy
- An unfiltered thought on giving directly
- The principle of charity
Some of my key intellectual influences are Ozy Brennan (http://thingofthings.wordpress.com), Scott Alexander (http://www.slatestarcodex.com), Tyler Cowen (Director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University), Kelsey Piper (https://www.vox.com/authors/kelsey-piper), Julia Galef (http://www.juliagalef.com), Esther Duflo (Director of J-PAL and Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT), Raj Chetty (William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard), Scott Sumner (Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center and Professor of Economics at Bentley University), Christina Romer (Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama), Michael Huemer (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder), Hilary Greaves (Director of the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford University), and Chris Blattman (Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the Harris School of Public Policy).
Bloggers I frequently read are José Luis Ricón, Alexey Guzey, Anonymous Mugwump, and Sarah Constantin (apart from the people above). For the news, I typically read The Economist every week and occasionally go through the Vox website. From time to time, I listen to the podcasts The Weeds with Matthew Yglesias, Macro Musings with David Beckworth, Conversations with Tyler, Rationally Speaking with Julia Galef, EconTalk with Russ Roberts, Probable Causation with Jennifer Doleac, and The 80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin.
The issues I care about personally are (1) reducing the incidence of sexual violence, (2) figuring out what our global priorities ought to be, (3) bettering animal welfare, both in farms and in the wild, (4) improving innovation to tackle major public health problems such as malnutrition, disease, and antibiotic resistance, and (5) increasing the pace of economic growth, global economic integration, and poverty alleviation, particularly in developing countries. These are fairly broad and I think (2) probably has the most importance.
I am a moral realist. I am not sure what the correct normative theory is – I don’t necessarily think humans have arrived at a “correct” one yet – and in the face of this moral uncertainty, I am a pluralist. In my opinion, the basis for moral judgment is reasoning from some core ethical intuitions that the majority of people share and extending those intuitions to their logical conclusions. Furthermore, I believe that societies undergo moral progress, and that our understanding of ethics deepens in a manner similar to our understanding of science. One of my core moral intuitions is that individuals and groups of people have moral duties to assist those in need (provided they are sentient beings), and that this obligation is proportional to how much power those individuals or groups of people are.
In terms of public policy, I’m afraid I do not have a tremendous amount of knowlegde, so apart from the few issues on which I’ve read a large amount, I rely on (1) defaulting to expert consensus and (2) having intuition-based priors. I am generally left of center on social issues and relatively centrist on economic issues. I believe in free markets, but I also believe in social safety nets for the poor. I don’t have too much knowledge of monetary or foreign policy, or strong intuitions related to them.
My learning plan
I am a high school student, as I mentioned before. About a year ago, I came across this list – in which one of Patrick Collison’s pieces of advice for 10–20-year-olds is to “go deep on things.” While I have sort of been doing that for much of my life – and have mostly gone deep into debate and related subjects, as well as some sub-branches of zoology, and some mythology across many cultures – coming across this explicit advice has driven me to take a more systematic approach. In that respect, I have created a list of things I want to learn more about over the next one and a half years or so (before I start going to college, that is). A strikethrough indicates that I have completed it.
Introductory microeconomics (at the level of AP Microeconomics) Introductory macroeconomics (at the level of AP Macroeconomics)
- Some issues in gender, sexuality, and sexual violence
- Prevalence of sexual violence
- Relationship between sexual violence and public health issues
- Distributional effects of sexual violence
- Public policy relevant to sexual violence, and how seemingly unrelated public policy affects it
- The effects of various legal approaches to prostitution and pornography
- The inclusion of LGBTQ+ students in Indian school education
- The interaction between sexual harassment and social media platforms
- Effective strategies to reduce sexual harassment and bullying in school environments
- Public health issues relevant to the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community
- Microeconomic theory I (at the level of an intermediate undergraduate college course with calculus)
- Microeconomic theory II (at the level of Hal Varian’s Microeconomic Analysis or an equivalent book)
- Game theory
- Comparative politics (at the level of Clark, Golder, and Golder’s textbook on the subject)
- International development, using:
- Michael Todaro and Stephen Smith’s Economic Development
- MITx’s course “Foundations of Development Policy”
- Benjamin Olken’s course materials from MIT’s 14.75
- Statistics and econometrics, using:
- Darrin Speegle and Bryan Clair’s Foundations of Statistics with R and Francis DiTraglia’s course materials from UPenn’s Econ 103
- James Stock and Mark Watson’s Introduction to Econometrics
- Sheldon Ross’s A First Course in Probability
- Joshua Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke’s Mostly Harmless Econometrics
- Mathematics, specifically:
- Introductory applied single- and multivariable calculus
- Introductory linear algebra
- Some material in set theory and differential equations with applications to economics and political science
- As much content as I can comprehend from Carl Simon and Lawrence Blume’s Mathematics for Economists (even though intended for upper-level undergraduates, it’s surprisingly understandable even for someone with no prior mathematics background except precalculus, even if not sufficiently dedicated to each subtopic)
- Public economics, at the level of an introductory undergraduate course in public economics
- Non-calculus-based intermediate macroeconomics
- Introductory biology
- Introductory computer science
Anyway, that’s me. I hope you enjoy what you find here.