Assorted links

by on November 3, 2012 at 6:30 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How fast are driverless cars on the race track?

2. The Vatican newspaper runs five articles about the new James Bond film.

3. Renders the Taco-Copter totally obsolete.

4. BusinessWeek profile of Scott Sumner.

5. Biafra was also not a good idea.

6. Acemoglu and Robinson respond to Subramanian, and good Flickr photostream of North Korea, and is this guy, a possible defector from the West, tweeting from North Korea?

Claudia November 3, 2012 at 8:08 am

4. I am happy to give credit for Sumner’s hard work, provocative analysis, and tireless devotion to monetary policy…but there’s some perspective lost in profiles like this one. Sure it sounds plausible that his blog was the most influential blog on QE3, but even when I think of blogging inputs I am not sure that’s right. Why did QE3 happen? Above all, because unemployment remains doggedly too high…it is not an experiment in pre-NGDP targeting. Blogs which cover the labor market and other GDP shocks were surely useful too. As were many, many other sources of information. Smart people absorb information at an antonishing rate (something that should have been understood here)…how that information is edited, combined, and translated into action or opinions is complicated. I have no problem with the kudos profile but the oversimplified policy process (without any verification) is misleading.

John Thacker November 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

Well, it’s a standard process. Existing ideas seemed to break down, so people look around for other ideas that have been suggested. It’s true that they wouldn’t have looked to other ideas if things hadn’t broken down, but it’s equally true that if an alternative hadn’t been offered, it wouldn’t have been used or seemed as persuasive.

Claudia November 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

My point is that a lot of people offered useful ideas and analysis … in the blogosphere, in academia, in policy circles, and within the Fed itself. Plus policy rules are just one input to monetary policy. Bloggers like Krugman and Delong who ranted endlessly about the aggregate demand short falls and the need for more monetary easing could also be seen as catalysts for going big. I don’t know and I don’t think it’s a healthy exercise. To shine the spotlight on one individual is not a realistic picture of how monetary policy…even unconventional policy…is made.

wiki November 3, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Since Krugman kept talking about zero bounds and waffling about monetary policy while cheerleading for fiscal policy, Scott deserves the credit for bravely focusing on monetary easing and making clear that there was no zero bound, just a lack of political will. He is also showing that there is a monetarist alternative that can promote easing while still opposing more fiscal expansion. The mainstream frames the debate as if we have Keynesians on the one hand or the classicals or Austrians on the other. Sumner was the loudest voice for Friedmanite monetarism — neither conventional Keynesian spending nor Austrian resistance to both fiscal policy and QE. And I think Milton Friedman would have approved.

farmer November 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

Biafra attracted Western news media attention not for beign an african war qua african war, but it attracted Western attention by attracting Westerners, and quixotic, charmign westerners, too
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Gustaf_von_Rosen
A daring Swedish count, billionaire, and combat piolot for the Biafran Air Force
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolf_Steiner
German, tries to become a priest but has an affair with a nun, runs away to join the French Foreign Legion, where he earns oodles of medals in Indochina. Later moves to Algeria and attempts to overthrow French rule with the OAS. After getting out of jail, he joins the Biafran cause, where he leads daring raids and declines pay for almost the entire war, until he is kicked out by the Biafrans themselves.

you couldn’t *dream* of better figures to draw media attention!

Ed November 3, 2012 at 10:58 am

Indeed. Those were heady times. Recall that Rhodesia had just unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965, and suffered no apparent problems. The idea tha a group could unilaterally suceed form a country and win recognition was in the air.

Alas, it was not to be, though not for lack of trying. With the notable exceptions of the United States and Israel, forming a new *country* takes recognition from other states.

TGGP November 3, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Isn’t “unilaterally” the normal way in which a state declares independence? The English weren’t giving permission in 1776.

Ed November 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm

There are only three countries in the modern era formed unilaterally, or upon pronouncement by the country itself, rather than recognition by another country. These are the United States, Israel, and Rhodesia. Rhodesia lasted for about 15 years with almost no international recognition but by the late 1970′s found itself enmeshed in civil war. The United States and Israel’s unilateral declarations also led to war but both seem firmly entrenched as nations today, although the status of the occupied Palestinian territories is on obvious open question.

Every other country I’m aware of has been formed after recognition by at least one other country. Taiwan, which has recognition from twenty or so nations, is exceptional in that most major countries recognize it on a de facto basis, including placing non-embassy “interest sections” there for government relations and consular representation even while lending de jure recognition to mainland China.

Alistair November 4, 2012 at 7:17 am

Most of former Yugoslavia managed it, though bloodily in many cases. Recognition was mostly de facto, long after the event.

Ed November 3, 2012 at 10:52 am

Far from being a “bad idea,” Biafra’s flaw was being ahead of its times. Rather than continue with an artificial confederation established by the British, the Biafrans sought to form a smaller state with rational borders. Today, Biafra’s course looks very rational: many big failed states have broken down peacefully into their component parts (as in the former Sudan, Czechoslavakia, Yugoslavia, Russia). Unfortunately, Britain and other world powers refused to recognize Biafra, leading to the a crippling civil war, and the nation on the brink that is Nigeria today.

Today, Biafran flags fly over buildings in the Delta region. A new Biafra with international recognition could perhaps lead the whole of Nigeria out of corruption and to prosperity.

Thor November 3, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Let me get this straight: Yugoslavia was a big failed state that broke down peacefully into its component parts?

I wouldn’t even say this of Czechoslovakia, and that split was at least fairly peaceful.

EACH state you mention is so different from the others, in terms of culture, politics, ethnic composition and especially history, that it seems — at best — very odd to try to lump them together as you do.

Ed November 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm

“EACH state you mention is so different from the others, in terms of culture, politics, ethnic composition and especially history,”

Yes, exactly my point. Big, unweildy states have broken up in many different parts of the world and in many different cultural and political contexts. It would be disingenous to think that the same couldn’t happen in Nigeria or to automatically consider it a “bad idea”.

Alistair November 4, 2012 at 7:20 am

Czechoslovakia DID break down peacefully. Even the Soviet Union broke apart mostly peaceably, judged by deaths per capita and compared to the secession wars of Sudan or Yugoslavia (or the failed one in the US).

Ed’s point is that there may be different rational sizes for states based on the self-identity and autonomy of their components and many states in the world today may be too large relative to that size.

Ed November 4, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Alistair: Indeed, the trend for the past 70 years or so has been for more and more countires to form, not fewer. East and West Germany merging together are the only recent example in the opposite direction.

Robert November 3, 2012 at 11:02 am

It’s finally here: Taco Bell’s Canon!

TuringTest November 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Will “excessive regulation”, expansive tort liability, and patent thickets doom the innovative Taco Canon to failure?

Andrew' November 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Sooo….Do the Minnesotans have MRU yet? In a rule-of-law kind of way, or in an E-mail from some lackey at the AG’s office kind of way?

Matt November 3, 2012 at 11:43 am

The first several N. Korea photos look very much as if they could have been taken in any number of smaller Russian cities as late as 2001 or so- same buildings, same train stations, etc. I’m sure it’s worse in N. Korea, but I’m struck by the similarity of the look.

genauer November 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

@ Tyler Cowen:

one short question, which shouldnt take you more than a very few minutes:
“Tell me one specific Krugman paper, and why you think it is good, in 2 or or 3 specific sentences”.

I have asked that in several blogs, and didnt get anywhere near a satisfying answer, so far. Shouldnt be that difficult, after all the guy got a Nobel prize.

prognostication November 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

You could search the archive here for Tyler’s post about Krugman’s Nobel.

Tyler Cowen November 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm

And go check out the MRU video on Krugman’s contributions to development economics…

Millian November 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Yeah, Biafra is exactly like Catalonia. Like Tyler, I’ve noticed no differences between geopolitics in West Africa versus the land of El Bulli, and even if I did I would be reluctant to change my mental model. The way things are is the way things are, and it suits me fine, so why are other people so worried about things that don’t affect me?

genauer November 4, 2012 at 2:36 am

Well, I searched the Archive,

I found the link to his nobel lecture slides, which are to me a collection of trivialities, I don’t see an original thought of Krugman in it, but maybe you help me with that.

e.g. That lower transport costs and lower trade barriers lead to increasing trade with suppliers further away, yes, of course,but what is new or original from Krugman with that?

And you simply called them excellent, unspecific

I looked at :
http://mruniversity.com/paul-krugman

a) Specialization
That specialization increases productivity people knew since the development of professions, what is new here?
b) Increasing return (of scales)
Same thing, what is new?
c) Economic geography
That certain specialities flock to one street in a city, certain industries develop in one area, not new, where is a significant contribution from Krugman?
d) Economic role of cities
We know that, and to what degree shorter transport, the existence of a common market place to trade with each other is important, is an open question. What contribution from Krugman, what does he explain, show as new, …. ?
His 1991 paper is often cited as nobel relevant, Noah Smith claimed, that he would explain Zipf’s law. He doesn’t do that, and in his 1996 paper he just copies the explanation from Simon.

That protectionism can work, sometimes, everybody engaged in this in the 50ties and 60ties knew that.

What does Krugman really explain about currency fluctuations, specifically?

Please, my question was short, but precise:
“Tell me one specific Krugman paper, and why you think it is good, in a few specific sentences”

Joseph Lemien November 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm

6. Aparently the tweeter is James Dresnok (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Joseph_Dresnok), or at least appears to be. It is possible that someone has adopted the identity, but from the lack of frequency of tweets it is fairly believable that it could really be him.

mdv November 4, 2012 at 1:04 am

Or it could be his son who is considerably younger and presumable more tech savy…(from the Wikipedia article): “His eldest son from his second marriage, James Dresnok, was a student at Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, where his father taught English in the 1980s. James speaks English with a Korean accent and considers himself Korean”

Alan Coffey November 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

#1. “Just seconds behind”. I know men who have spent a lifetime trying to pick up just seconds per lap.

Finch November 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Yeah, a few seconds is a lot.

A real race series, with multiple cars racing at the same time, in varied conditions, perhaps with human drivers in the mix, would eliminate most of the doubts about auto-drive features in one stroke. I don’t think they’re nearly ready for this, but perhaps I’m wrong.

Tom Jackson November 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Maybe the fact the guy hasn’t tweeted since July proves that it’s real…..did they take away his iPad?

A November 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Probably their driving software just sucks.

There’s no way a human could beat good software at car racing on an empty track it has been extensively tested on, obviously.

Bryan Willman November 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm

re #1 – “Just seconds” – I have driven in races at Thunderhill when “just seconds” covered 1st to 10th or 12th – and “just seconds” will typically cover an entire F1 grid. They don’t say if the car was within 7% of the human, if it’s not it won’t even make the show in some series.

Roy November 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

5. Yes Biafra was a bad idea because the West, and The UK in particular that created the state of Nigeria out of imperial avarice, let the Ibos be exterminated.

Other “not good Ideas”

The Warsaw uprising, they should have known the Red Army would stop across the Vistula and let the SS massacre them.

Every Irish rising until 1916, which looked really stupid at the time but in hindsight did the trick

Spartacus and the Second Servile War

The Zulu War, Cetawayo should have known he’d fail

I could go on and on here, but if resisting genocide and pogroms is only a good idea unless you win, you really have no idea what a nation is.

In addition, if the Spanish State decides to react to Catalan seccesion the way Nigeria did, I would be shocked if the UN or NATO didn’t intervene and there would be war crimes trials that would dwarf Nuremburg.

Millian November 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Excellent point. It is really sad that the Irish tried so hard to destroy both the United Kingdom and the British Empire.

NedKom November 3, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Spain: There would be no international involvement until way too late.
Thereimpulse be no need for the UN to get involved as long as the able Nobel peace prize winners are managing the situation.

The PolyCapitalist November 4, 2012 at 8:30 am

#2 Nice to see some change at the Catholic Church. Now, if they would only quit harboring pedophiles…

Chris November 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm

har har har dat’s a good’un!

Tom November 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Breaking colonial based empire-states into smaller nation-states is a good idea, just one not yet accepted by most Big-Gov’t statists.

Africa should become multiple city state-sized cantons of single majority ethnic tribal groups, who would then compete for capital and development — and it would become clear over a few years which gov’t model mix produces the best results.

South Sudan, the war-based new country, itself has multiple tribes, many of which have multiple negative prejudices against the others.

How many have to be killed in Nigeria since 1970 for Biafra to have been “a good idea”? Tho admittedly too early for the West.

Ed November 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I wouldn’t write off Biafra altogether. Things are pretty bad in Nigeria, and have been slowly getting worse, despite it’s resource wealth. The Igbo people (aka Biafrans) are reknown for their entrepreneural spirit and resourcefulness.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that the country would agree to split peacefully. Dividing up the oil wealth in the Delta region would be the only sticking point. Sudan/South Sudan managed to overcome this; a long spell of low oil prices could also render it more or less moot.

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