Assorted links

by on February 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. New Carl Zimmer project on science eBook reviews.

2. Empirical tests of how much “cold start” is a problem in labor economics.  From this general blog on on-line labor markets and their implications.

3. Markets in everything: dog TV.

4. NYT symposium on the farm bill, including yours truly.

5. Whorfian economics.

6. CrookedTimber is running a symposium on Graeber’s debt book.

7. Early John Nash on cryptography, written to the NSA.

John Thacker February 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

The farm bill is one area where I’m glad to see President Obama abandoning Senator Obama’s views (here, pro-subsidy and pro-farm bill) in order to move to the position of President George W. Bush (who vetoed the farm bill, but was overriden and, like President Obama now, made proposals to limit our farm spending.)

However, it tends to be a tough sale. The last farm bill, conservatives opposed it, but the moderate pro-subsidy wing in both parties was able to get the progressives to sign on by throwing some extra money at food stamps and organics and fruits and vegetables (pittances in the latter cases, but enough to buy votes.)

John B. Chilton February 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm

The cold start paper is, um, cool, but doesn’t it imply something that could be easily gamed and/or provide a low-cost way to up a worker’s chance of employment? What am I missing?

Doc Merlin February 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm

MITx does just that.

brostiat February 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm

#3:

i wonder if there r plans to advertise to the dogs too.

k February 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm

cold-start: though Michael Spence had fixed this problem.

k February 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

*thought

BruceB February 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm

No discussion of Graeber’s book is complete without including the Ultimate Sentence of Wrongness discussed at this link:

Unfogged: The Thirteenth Chime

The comments get quite entertaining beginning around #40.

Scrutineer February 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm

That is magnificent.

dearieme February 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm

When I read a Graeber piece I criticised his arguing that a particular large stretch of human history had no World Empire and no slavery: my conclusive counter-example was the Caliphate. His response might be classified by the unkind as little-girlish.

Dan in Euroland February 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I saw that. He was ridiculous in his response.

Todd February 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm

There is a novel in those comments.

Or maybe some overwrought network Mini-Series.

JWatts February 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Some of those comments are indeed hilarious. I particularly like this one:
Original comment:
“Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other’s garages.”

It’s amazing that someone could pack so much wrongness into one sentence
.
Best response: “The sentence would be more forgivable if it was written a few hundred years in the future and the timescales for things like “Apple founded” and “laptops available” got flattened out, I guess. “They had large garages to house their zeppelins, and communicated by telegraph on those occasions when the holonet failed.”"

Barkley Rosser February 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm

The crucial work on cryptanalysis was done by Adrian Albert, who offered Nash a job in the University of Chicago math department in 1958. Nash was just beginning to have his problems and turned down the offer because he was expecting to be appointed the “Emperor of Antarctica.” However, this letter may open a door on why Albert was interested in giving Nash the offer.

BTW, within mathematics and in his own mind, Nash’s work on manifolds is much more important than his relatively mathematically trivial work on game theory.

CBBB February 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm

+1 on the mathematically trivial line. I don’t understand why people think Game Theory is some kind of impressive intellectual accomplishment. It’s essentially dressed up common sense.

Barkley Rosser February 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Well, it is a bit more than that. Fixed point theorems are not exactly just child’s play, and Nash did make the step to use the more generalized Kakutani version (followed up on by Arrow and Debreu and MacKenzie) over the Brouwer version introduced to the discussion of both game theoretic and competive equilibria by von Neumann. But it remains simple stuff compared to Riemann manifolds.

k February 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

common sense maybe

but it helped economics start to grope toward modeling interactive behavior.

TGGP February 25, 2012 at 11:52 pm

I wonder if the position of “Emperor of Antarctica” has anything to do with Emperor of the North Pole.

Miley Cyrax February 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm

@ 5

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is interesting, but Occam’s Razor applies. Certain peoples have higher FTR rates in language and lower things like criminality because they have higher future time orientation, e.g. lower discount rates, which is heritable. The author alludes to teasing this out by comparing those who are related and speak different languages and those unrelated and speak the same languages, but I suspect the signal to noise ratio will be low.

my informed opinion February 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

> Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is interesting

It is BS. I do hope that our host would link to what specialists of the field say about what Joe the random economist proposes. At least now he knows where linguistic expertise is to be found. And please, you should not link to the economists that have something to say about Sapir-Whorf.

Money quote from the comments of the linked article:

What Keith Chen’s work best illustrates is the by now well-established tendency of economists to present themselves as experts on everything, typically using half-digested, poorly understood results from other disciplines such as mathematics, statistics, biology and, now, linguistics.

One might have thought that, in view of their disastrous record in their own field in the last few years, practitioners of the dismal science would prefer to keep a low profile. But then one might have thought the same of the Catholic episcopate. It seems evident that in both instances, as with politicians, arrogance trumps discretion.

John Mansfield February 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

DogTV lives in the window of time where a enough people would care to provide it for their dogs, but before civil-rights battles about regarding pets as full-fledged family members really get into swing. Employers will be pressured to fund health insurance for animals. Public places, such as restaurants, will have to be as accomodating of dogs as they are of children. The pet owners will wish they had not been so successful, though, when leaving a dog home alone all day with DogTV playing results in a visit from Pet Protective Services.

CBBB February 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Ha, on another note do dogs actually watch TV? My dog ignores it if it’s on – I don’t think I’ve ever seen her actually look at the television for more then a second.

Ken Rhodes February 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

My two poodles are totally disinterested in any TV other than amimals.

Those, OTOH, are watched *intensely,* with frequent barking, sometimes cute, but sometimes annoyingly loud.

Their loudest barking, interestingly, is not at dogs on the TV, but rather at the alligators. When Tom Landry, wrestling with a gator on his line, shouts “Shoot ‘im, Lizabeth,” the dogs go nuts.

jdm February 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I like that you argue for more humane treatment of farm animals.

Rahul February 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm

One point that intrigued me there was Tyler’s saying:

“Better treatment of animals could reduce methane emissions”

Cows fart less when happy?

my informed opinion February 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm

> One point that intrigued me there was Tyler’s saying:

> “Better treatment of animals could reduce methane emissions”

> Cows fart less when happy?

Yeah! What’s up with that? I have always been curious when green people claim that when cows (pigs, chicken…) are “happy” (whatever that means…) they taste better. No justification is ever produced. So, links to _scientific_ studies are needed here (and remember, your favorite crackpots don’t count!). I think this is actually the same thing as with anything organic anyway:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zqe4ZV9LDs

Ken Rhodes February 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm

No scientific study is required. Just ask any hunter who eats the game he shoots.

Tyler Cowen February 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Treat them better, marginal cost goes up, price goes up, demand to eat them goes down, quantity supplied goes down.

Claudia February 22, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Humane is difficult to define. For example, reasonable people can disagree whether gestation crates or deep bed large pens are more humane for sows. It depends largely on how you value freedom of movement versus death/injury from fighting or reduced monitoring. It’s not like we can easily elicit farm animal preferences (even humans are tricky). Pets are not a useful comparison (unless you’re a vegetarian), since we don’t eat our pets. If we’re worried about water or air quality (which is measurable) that’s what should be regulated. Let markets for free range, cage free take of the more subjective debate over humane treatment of animals.

Rahul February 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Couldn’t the beds-versus-crates proposition be experimentally tested? Offer both modes and a means of periodic switching of preference. Even swine can vote with their feet.

Mark Thorson February 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm

With regard to agricultural policy, we must repeal the Onion Futures Act (7 USC 13-1) which makes onion farming a crapshoot and we must amend the Plant Patent Act (35 USC 161) to remove the specific restriction against tubers which suffocates potato research and innovation.

Francesca February 23, 2012 at 11:21 am

Claudia has a more realistic approach to the issue of farm animals, as opposed to Tyler’s goo-goo view. Sounds like Tyler has swallowed HSUS’ campaigns based on very selective videotaping. Become a vegetarian if you choose, but don’t foist that choice — or increased cost — on meat-eaters.

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