Assorted links

by on January 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Can we ever do better than the toilet?

2. Profile of Joshua Angrist.

3. Ezra Klein post on the platinum coin.

4. Infidelity phones.

5. Killer whale video.

6. David Brooks reviews Jared Diamond.

7. The nature of Japanese fiscal stimulus.

Claudia January 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm
TMC January 12, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Well a reference to Ezra do signify hitting the bottom of the barrel on a story. It had to end soon after.

prior_approval January 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm

But at least we can look forward to more eurogeddon stories, now that the latest distraction has seemingly run its course.

johnz January 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm
Bill January 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Re: Platinum coin

The likely backlash to minting a new coin, thereby creating money, to pay the debt is that Congress would come back in and pass legislation to change the law, but also then to get control over the money supply or get itself into the approval/disapproval of the expansion of the money supply.

Shades of the 1880s and 90s.

Roderick Sutherland January 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm

#1 The Japenese have already re-invented the toilet. Unfortunately it is an experience good: until I went to Japan I thought the idea faintly comedic – but, having used them, I might actually pay good money to install one at home should my current toilet need replacing. But persuading even 100,000 of my fellow-countrymen to do this would be a challenge.

My own contention is that some of the biggest gains to both economies and to people’s lives may come from advances in marketing (ie among the social sciences) rather than in technology. We already have really good videoconferencing technology, for instance – the difficulty lies in getting people to adopt it.

This process is not helped by the fact that, Austrians aside, all other economists secretly despise marketing.

Dismalist January 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Platinum Coin Fundamental: The idea of a platinum coin is a legal trick, not an economic one. It merely finances the government debt by printing money. We know where that goes. It’s not worth discussing.

Put out a credible plan to stabilize the debt/GDP ratio, and everything is fine. The Platinum Coin makes any plan involving it incredible. Kiss of death.

Andrew' January 13, 2013 at 6:42 am

According a post by ZeroHedge the purpose of the debt ceiling is to signal to suckers…I mean dollar reserve holders that we won’t monetize. So, at the end of the day the platinum coin may be self-defeeating.

So Much for Subtlety January 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Jonathan Bernstein and Paul Krugman both have thoughtful responses to my case against minting a platinum coin to solve the debt ceiling. Reading their replies — and talking Thursday with Bloomberg View’s Josh Barro — has helped clarify the issue for me.

So he was for it, but now he has talked to some people who know what they are talking about he is against it?

Can someone explain Ezra Klein to me? How does this nonentity with exactly the same boring opinions as everyone else and no obvious expertise in anything get such a great media job?

bluto January 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

He was a young, well-credentialed blogger who was very prominent right as blogging hit everyone’s radar, and newspapers entered a nadir. Sometimes it pays to be at the right place at the right time.

Guest January 12, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Plus he is good looking.

So Much For Subtlety January 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Actually I remembered where I had heard of him – Journolist. So there’s that too.

ed January 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm

#1: Remember this previously-linked piece about people in western China choosing cell phones over toilets:

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2013/01/the_post-produc.php

Roderick Sutherland January 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Thank you for this. Difficult to say whether A or B is a “better” decision. It could be that the entertainment value of consumer electronics is simply more greater than the convenience of plumbing. Or it could be a runaway “Elks’ Antlers” signalling effect, Robert Frank style, where the status derived from having a large TV (which is of course more visible than a tap) outweighs any other consideration. Car ownership among 1950s American teens (and 1980s UK teens) was pretty much that. Not that status isn’t valuable – it’s just that, because it is socially determined, you don’t have much choice about the vehicle you use to display it, as the women’s fashion industry shows.

These status-vehicles do change over time. The Economist recently had a piece suggesting Gen-Y in urban areas now no longer have much interest in cars. But the process is slow and perhaps arbitrary. Washing machines and fridge-freezers were prime status goods in my childhood. Perhaps indoor plumbing was a great way to show off in 1870s London. It is now perhaps harder to innovate in these mature categories partly because any innovations generate little noise, as the attention has shifted elsewhere. Which is why we don’t buy Japanese loos in the West: they don’t make you look cool, they just make you look weird.

Ray Lopez January 12, 2013 at 7:31 pm

@#1 – The Economist leader: “Even many regulations designed to help innovation are not working well. The West’s intellectual-property system, for instance, is a mess, because it grants too many patents of dubious merit.” – this is patently false. The reason companies over patent technology is that fully one-half to 40% of all patents litigated are invalidated by courts, which often employ juries (!) who know little to nothing about technology. So companies try to patent an invention from many different angles to avoid this problem. What we need is a better patent system that is: (1) registration based, meaning everybody gets a patent, and (2) special courts –without juries but with court appointed experts–to hear who invented what first, when worthy inventions are litigated. Today’s present system is broken because you are asking a disinterested and uninterested bureaucrat to decide whether something is worthy of a patent in about half a day’s time (the typical quota for a patent examiner–I’ve heard stories about how some of them decide novelty in a few minutes using a handful of references they keep at their desk). That is a recipe for failure. Far better to decide such matters in special courts, when both sides have spent serious money and time hiring experts to do the job properly. An open registration system, as Germany and Japan have, would be optimal, though it would probably irritate the US patent bar.

Cliff January 13, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Okay, your last sentence threw me because I have prosecuted in Japan (EU as well, though not German national applications) and they have a rigorous examination procedure, probably more rigorous than in the U.S. What do you do, do you have any expertise in this area?

I suspect, given the state of patent “trolling”, your solution would in fact be a huge debacle

Chip January 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I don’t get Klein either.

When we have direct access to experienced and knowledgable commentators all over the net, why this popularity of no nothings straight of school pushing oh so predictable political narratives.

Makes me wonder if journalism is about to split into two branches: one, a decentralized web of knowledgable voices in their respective fields, and two, the propagandists populated by young over-achieving political operatives.

Arguably we already have it today but many don’t realize it yet.

jonm January 12, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I think there’s bound to be a range of sources between subject specialists and generalists, and Klein is simply the WP’s choice for a policy/politics generalist. Is there something particularly objectionable about him other than his being a liberal? Would Michael Tomasky, Josh Marshall, etc. have been better?

So Much For Subtlety January 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm

That he knows nothing about anything? Has Klein ever said anything interesting at all? At least anything that everyone else doesn’t believe?

Tomasky is not much better but at least he has been around for a while. He is older. He has had some experience. He comes from West Virginia which at least means at one point he was within spitting distance of some real people. He might know where some live. Klein has just gone from Gated Community to a nice High School in a leafy suburb to do some non-important degree in an Ivy League university to being taken seriously as a pundit. It is bizarre.

Roy January 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm

He went to UCLA, but he is from Orange County, so he didn’t even leave Cali to go to school. I think you are right Tomasky would be better. Actually even Yglesias would be better, at least he actually shows some ability to learn things that might not be completely spoon fed.

TGGP January 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Some real people live in West Virginia, most don’t, that doesn’t make them chopped liver.

I looked up Ezra Klein on wikipedia. I also found him pretty annoying when I first heard of him, but he didn’t go to an Ivy League. He has a B.A in poli-sci from UCLA (transferring from UC-Santa Cruz). The high school he attended is University High School in Irvine, very highly ranked among public schools though not a magnet school.

chuck martel January 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Ezra: And forcing the Republican Party to accept a more normal approach to politics is, in the end, the main objective.
Oh, OK, now I get it.

MikeDC January 12, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Klein’s sentence, “That said, I think it highly unlikely that the Republican Party will actually push the country into default if it can’t get Democrats to name and then vote for Medicare cuts.”

could tellingly be written “I think it highly likely that the Democratic Party will actually push the country into default rather than name and then vote for Medicare cuts.”

Andrew' January 13, 2013 at 6:50 am

All Republicans need to do is give the Democrats all the rope they want and make sure that they put their name on it.

Rich Berger January 13, 2013 at 6:45 am

Who really gives a shit what EK “thinks”? OTOH, this is pretty funny, re 4:
“If Tiger Woods had this Japanese feature in his phone, he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble,” said Mr. Natsuno, now a professor at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance.”

Age-old problems, modern technology.

Andrew' January 13, 2013 at 9:20 am

I’d settle for not going backwards on the toilet.

Brian Donohue January 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

re #5.

My first, anthropomorphic, reaction, was that this would be a tortuous way to die.

Then I’m like, hey, somebody should tell the starving polar bears. Red in tooth and claw and all.

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