Arrived in my pile

by on November 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm in Books | Permalink

1. John A. Allison, The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure.

2. Peter J. Wallison, Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again.

3. Ted Gioia, Love Songs: The Hidden History.

4.Andrew Palmer, Smart Money: How High-Stakes Financial Innovation is Reshaping Our World for the Better.

The Bloomberg editorial staff says no:

Videos often lack critical context, and studies have repeatedly shown that jurors can be misled by variables such as a film’s angle or focus, which can unduly sway perceptions of guilt. That cuts both ways: Footage of a protester bumping into a cop, devoid of context, could make life much easier on a prosecutor.

Police cameras are also prone to intentional abuse. With mysterious frequency, they seem to accidentally get switched off or malfunction at critical moments. One obvious remedy is to require that cops always keep them on. But that can be counterproductive. Witnesses and victims may be less forthcoming on camera. Attracting competent officers could become harder if their every interaction is recorded. Crucially, officers may simply avoid engaging certain communities, or avoid areas where confrontations are likely, if they know they’re being filmed.

Finally, equipping police with cameras and audio recorders means that they’re constantly conducting surveillance on innocent civilians — and potentially storing it all. Police frequently enter private homes and encounter people in medical emergencies who may not want to be filmed. Some officers may be tempted to record people on the basis of race or religion. And some departments have asserted that the public has no right to see such footage.

In short, a policy intended to empower the public and monitor the police could have precisely the opposite effect.

There is more here, food for thought of course.  Via Adam Minter.

Assorted links

by on November 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Clive Crook on Grubergate.

2. Demography may help explain secular stagnation.

3. Guy Patrick Cunningham reviews Average is Over.

4. What the Concorde was like to fly.

5. George Selgin on Tommy Roe (and Izabella Kaminska).  And as long as we are on the topic of people getting upset, here is Landsburg on Krugman.

6. Can hospital design affect recovery? (speculative)

7. Arnold Kling picks his favorite books of the year.

Patents Do Not Increase Productivity

by on November 25, 2014 at 7:15 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

James Pethokoukis points us to this graph in the CBO’s new report on innovation. Patenting is way up but total factor productivity has barely budged. 112414patent

Boldrin, Allamand, Levine, and Ornaghi show something similar cross-sectionally, namely that the industries with the most patents are not the industries with the biggest increases in labor productivity. At best there is only a slight positive relationship between patents and labor productivity (see the paper for more).

Patents&Prod

 

The economics of rape

by on November 25, 2014 at 2:53 am in Economics, Law, Uncategorized | Permalink

There are some interesting and under-reported papers on this topic, here is one of them, by Jordan D. Matsudaira and Emily Greene Owens, here is the abstract:

In 2006, approximately 49% of violent crimes were not reported to police. Being the victim of sexual assault is expensive; each incident imposes an external cost of over $100k on the victim. However, recent estimates of the total social cost are an order of magnitude larger suggesting that from a social welfare standpoint rape is likely to be underreported if the victim’s demand for reporting is price elastic. In spite of the centrality of victim reporting in the functioning of the criminal justice system, to date there is very little systematic evidence on what governments can do to encourage victims to report crimes. We estimate the sensitivity of victims to the cost of reporting in an Alaskan city between 1993 and 2006, during which time a chief of police publicly supported a policy of charging victims of sexual assault for medical procedures required to collect evidence against their attackers. Using a triple differences approach that compares trends in reported sexual assaults to other index crimes over time and across Alaskan cities, we estimate that this shift in cost of approximately $1,200 from the city government to victims reduced the number of reported rapes by between 50 and 80%. This large response highlights the importance of public policies which reduce the private cost of reporting crime.

The full paper is here.  Here is a paper by Paul Zimmerman and Bruce Benson on the economics of alcohol and rape, the published version is here.  Here is W. David Allen on the under-reporting of rape.  Here is a paper on rape as an economic crime.  This Scott Cunningham paper covers the connection between prostitution and rape.  This study shows that porn does not seem to lead to rape.  That said, if you enter “economics rape” into scholar.google.com, many of the top entries are about the crop.  My Google searches for “political economy of rape” do not turn up much useful, although that ought to be a very important topic.

Session 16M, Economics and Chess

Papers:

“Thinking Outside the Game Tree: Game Preparation at Chess World Championship”
Doru Cojoc, Columbia University

“Do Rational Agents Make Rational Decisions? Evidence from Chess Data”
Alexander Matros, University of South Carolina
Irina Murtazashvili, Drexel University

“Human and Computer Preference Divergences at Chess”
Kenneth Regan, University at Buffalo
Tamal Tanu Biswas, University at Buffalo
Jason Zhou, SUNYIT

The link to the program is here.  Here is Cojoc’s earlier paper on mixed strategies in chess.

Carlsen played an imperfect match, by the way, especially in the second half, but won on the grounds of age and stamina.  For the next cycle, I see Grischuk as the most likely challenger, as Aronian tends to choke at key moments and Caruana does not yet have a good enough positional understanding of the middle game and end game.  Carlsen will hold the title still for some while to come.

The pointer is from Daniel Klein, here is his earlier paper on why don’t government officials seem like villains (pdf).

David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee report:

This article investigates the effects of National Football League (NFL) games on crime. Using a panel data set that includes daily crime incidences in eight large cities with NFL teams, we examine how various measurements of criminal activities change on game day compared with nongame days. Our findings from both ordinary least squares and negative binomial regressions indicate that NFL home games are associated with a 2.6% increase in total crimes, while financially motivated crimes such as larceny and motor vehicle theft increase by 4.1% and 6.7%, respectively, on game days. However, we observe that play-off games are associated with a decrease in financially motivated crimes. The effects of game time (afternoon vs. evening) and upset wins and losses on crime are also considered.

Is it that a game works up everyone’s excitement, but the playoff games the criminals actually watch?  That is via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

While cruising the internet I ran into this recent working paper (pdf) by Daniel Benjamin, James J. Choi, and Geoffrey Fisher:

We randomly vary religious identity salience in laboratory subjects to test how identity effects contribute to the impact of religion on economic behavior. We find that religious identity salience causes Protestants to increase contributions to public goods. Catholics decrease contributions to public goods, expect others to contribute less to public goods, and become less risk averse. Jews more strongly reciprocate as an employee in a bilateral labor market gift-exchange game. Atheists and agnostics become less risk averse. We find no evidence of religious identity-salience effects on disutility of work effort, discount rates, or generosity in a dictator game.

In the recent hullaballoo, it has been forgotten that perhaps the best paper on whether religion is good for you was written by Jonathan Gruber.

Assorted links

by on November 24, 2014 at 10:53 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. John Cochrane on behavioral political economy and why it isn’t better.

2. High status voices have a different sound.

3. “…competition induces exaggerated negative tones in blogs, which is unrelated to information. Our results suggest that social media may provide mixed incentives for its participants in terms of information efficiency.”

4. Andrew Ng on Baidu.

5. Overstated but interesting critique of renewables.

6. The actual, stereotypical Coase theorem.

Best non-fiction books of 2014

by on November 24, 2014 at 1:34 am in Books, Economics, History | Permalink

First there are the economics books, including books by people I know, including Piketty, The Second Machine Age, Tim Harford’s wonderful macro explainer, Megan McArdle’s The Up Side of Down, Lane Kenworthy on social democracy, The Fourth Revolution by John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge, Daniel Drezner The System Worked, and Frank Buckley on why the Canadian system of government is better.  And Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness.  We’ve already talked, written, and thought about those plenty, and they are not what this list is about, so I will set them aside.  Most of you are looking for excellent new books in addition to these, books you might not have heard about.

Here are the other non-fiction books of the year which took my fancy, mostly in the order I read them, noting that the link usually leads you to my previous review or comments:

Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century.  Long, exhausting, and wonderful.

Christopher Hale, Massacre in Malaya, a broader history than it at first sounds, fascinating from beginning to end.

Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life.

The Very Revd John Drury, Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert.

John Keay, Midnight’s Descendants: A History of South Asia since Partition.  An excellent treatment of how much work remains to be done in the “nation building” enterprise in South Asia.

Alice Goffman, On the Run: Fugutive Life in an American City.  A sociology graduate student hangs out with lawbreakers and learns about police oppression, an excellent micro-study.  My column on her book is here.

Gendun Chopel, Grains of Gold: Tales of a Cosmopolitan Traveler, Tibetan scholar goes to India and records his impressions, unusual.

George Prochnik, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of His World.  I loved this one.

I’ve only read the first half of the new Tom Holland translation of Herdotus’s Histories (I will get to the rest), but surely it deserves note.

Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.  This book won the National Book Award for non-fiction.

David Eimer, The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China.  A look at China’s outermost regions and their ethnic minorities.  Just imagine that, we had two excellent popular China books in the same year.

The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman, by Davi Kopenawa.  Repetitious in parts, sometimes incoherent too, but it offers a smart and unique perspective you won’t get from any of the other books on this list or any other.

Jonathan Rottenberg, The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic.  This treatment stresses the (partial) cognitive advantages of having a tendency toward depression.

Edward Hirsch, A Poet’s Glossary, assorted facts and insights about the English language, you don’t have to feel like reading a book about poetry to find this worthwhile.

David Sterling, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, huge, expensive, wonderful, more than just a cookbook though it is that too.  I’ve spent some of the last few weeks learning these recipes and what makes them tick.

Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.  A good overview of how some of the main pieces of today’s information technology world fell into place, starting with the invention of the computer and running up through the end of the 1990s.

Arthur M. Melzer, Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing.

Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life.

Jan Swafford, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph.  As good or better than the classic biographies of the composer.

Stephen Kotkin, Stalin, vol. 1.  This one I have only read a part of (maybe 150 pp.?), it is very long and does not fit my current reading interests, but it seems very good and impressive and also has received strong reviews.  So I feel I should include it.

Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins.

So who wins?  If I had to pick a #1, it would be The Very Revd John Drury, Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert, not the kind of book I would be expecting to coronate, which is a testament to the magnetic force it has exercised over my imagination.

Then I would pick Alice Goffman, On the Run: Fugutive Life in an American City and David Sterling, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition as the runners-up.

My fiction picks were here.  There are still some wonderful books to come out this year, and already-published books I will still read, especially after mining other “best of” lists, so around Dec.31 or so I’ll post an updated account of what I would add to this list.

Assorted links

by on November 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A lot of anomalies exist only in hard to trade stocks.

2. Why is a neuroscientist working for Uber?.

3. What is the most popular funeral song? (British)

4. Izabella Kaminska criticizes free banking.

5. At The New Statesman, authors choose favorite books for 2014.

6. Why is the Swedish language so incomplete?  And why are they voting on it?  This raises the question anew of which semantic issues should be turned into matters of explicit political debate, the culture that is Sweden.

THREE times in the last 35 years, Russian military forces have crossed international borders – in Afghanistan in 1979, Georgia in 2008 and the Crimea earlier this year. As Simon Derrick, the currency strategist at BNY Mellon points out, each occasion coincided with a peak in the oil price. And each incursion was followed by a very sharp fall in the price of crude (see chart).

…If the previous episodes are any guide, oil has a fair way to fall.

That is from Buttonwood at The Economist, file under “speculative”…

Sewage Infrastructure

by on November 23, 2014 at 9:08 am in Food and Drink, Uncategorized | Permalink

This Vice documentary on sewage in New York is actually quite interesting. I would enjoy the Richard Scarry book.

Hat tip: Connor.

China estimate of the day

by on November 23, 2014 at 3:53 am in Economics, History | Permalink

…the evidence suggests that China was larger (in terms of purchasing power parity) than any other economy in the world until around 1889, when the US eclipsed it. Now, 125 years later, the rankings have reversed again, following decades of rapid economic development in China.

That is from Jeffrey Sachs, there is more here.

…cetacean brain size, relative to body size, increased substantially about thirty-eight mill years ago when the odontocetes evolved from the ancient archaeocetes…

What drove these changes? It does not seem to have been the transition to an aquatic existence itself as that occurred about fifty-five million years ago and brains stayed at roughly the same relatively small size relative to body weigt as the archaeocetes made their gradual entry into the ocean.  A better hypothesis is that the increased brain size of the odontocetes thirty-eight million years ago was driven by the evolution of echolocation.  The early odontocetes had inner ear bones that were good at picking up high frequency sound, which suggests that they had developed a form of sonar.  Lori Marino thinks “that echolocation came on line and then got co-opted for social communicative purposes.”  In this scenario, the odontocete brains increased in relative size to deal with the acoustic information itself, as well as, perhaps, a new perceptual system based on the data from the returning echoes.  But…the change may have been even more profound: “This may indicate that the large brains of early odontocetes were used, at least partly, for processing this entirely new sensory mode [echolocation] that evolved at the same time as these anatomical changes and perhaps for integrating this new mode into an increasingly complex behavioral ecological system.”

That is from the new and notable The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, previously covered on MR here.  And here is my earlier post on the economics of dolphins.