Assorted links

by on March 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why Enlightened is a good TV show.

2. Why are the French drinking less wine?

3. Reading assignments for Dan Ariely’s Coursera course.

4. The Wealth of Subnations (Mexico too).

5. How does Germany feel about its own fiscal union?

6. New Gates condom prize.

JWatts March 27, 2013 at 2:18 pm

#1) Why Enlightened is a good TV show.

After reading the article, that doesn’t sound like a good TV show to me.

Doug March 27, 2013 at 3:56 pm

The article does a poor job of capturing the inherently reactionary nature of the show. Reading the synopsis it’s easy to interpret the show as another self-congratulatory left-wing wank-fest about why corporations are eeevvviiillll. In reality the show is a brilliantly subtle satire on this vision. Do I think Mike White is a Burkean reactionary? Probably not, but he is a keen and honest observer of human behavior. And for a Hollywood writer much of the human behavior he’s observing is the hypocrisy of left-wing progressives.

The anti-corporate activists are portrayed as power and status hungry, selfish, disinterested social climbers. At one point in the series they’re showing a left-wing fundraiser with a bunch of Chomsky-reading self-styled revolutionary egalitarians standing in a $10 million mansion driving exotic sports cars, who refuse to make eye contact with the catering waitstaff. The heroine is offered an opportunity early in the series to actually help needy people, but turns it down because the pay and prestige are too low. The show makes very clear that her activism is driven by her desire to be superior to the “little people” around her, not any genuine sense of helping people.

In contrast the supposedly villainous CEO, is portrayed as a deep, reflective, engaged and considerate man. Self-interested certainly, but in contrast his self-interested drive is of an inherently constructive nature, one that employs people and builds things. He’s shown to feel responsible for his employees and care for those around him in a way that’s conspicuously contrasted with the do-gooder LA Times journalist in the same episode. The activists are portrayed as having no loftier of a goal than tearing things down, in the hope of using the rubble as a stepping stone. It’s made clear in the series that what they are doing will destroy a multi-billion dollar company and put tens of thousands of people out of work. Not once do they weigh whether this is a positive thing to do in contrast with airing what are essentially obscure and minor crimes on the part of the CEO.

In fact for the large bulk of the series the activists don’t even have any knowledge or evidence that any crimes are being committed by the company. They’re motivated not by a sense of good, but are rather on a fishing expedition to find something, anything to make themselves famous over. The linked articles suggests that the conditions of the workers at the company are some sort of existentialist hell. But the vast majority of the workers in the series are quite satisfied and happy with their lives. They find fulfillment through relationships, family, religion, or simply doing their job well. Mike White in one of the commentaries describes the misadventures of the heroine as “the mischief people get into when they don’t have kids.” The heroine likes to view all of this as “beneath her” and wants some sort of romantic fantasy of excitement, and more importantly power. Her “enlightenment” is pretty much just an excuse to justify using the people around her and feeling superior to them. More granola-munching Nietzsche then true detachment from desire.

At the end of the day it’s a brilliantly written and subtle examination of human behavior. This piece of film has more power to weaken the progressive narrative at the core of the New Deal state than anything else I’ve ever seen. I’m stunned that something so reactionary was not only green-lit by Hollywood, but actually is receiving such high reviews from the majority of critics.

JWatts March 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Wow! That’s a much more informative review than the NYBR managed.

Ray Lopez March 27, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Not sure your report is accurate, but not owning a TV would not know. Seems to be kind of like saying Dicken’s “Scrouge” in “A Christmas Carol” is an anti-hero since he employs people, is realistic, etc. while “Bob Cratchit” is an unproductive and expendable worker. I’ve seen that analogy too, and also the revisionist history that the Dutch Tulip Mania bubble was actually rational. Glass half empty or half full I suppose.

Nickolaus March 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Dan is going to set a record for the fewest number of people to successfully complete a Coursera course.

Claudia March 27, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Now didn’t you see the ” ” around required? I’ve watched the first two videos without prep and they are great! I think the ueber-rationals around here would be well served by this course: https://www.coursera.org/course/behavioralecon the one I watched this morning on defaults pretty much annihilates revealed preferences and calls into how much choice we have. Not a cheerful (but interesting) thought to start my economist day.

Rahul March 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I was thinking, a free MOOC offering is a great way to boost your own book sales.

Wonks Anonymous March 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

You should phrase #1 in the past tense.

Pizza Man March 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

4. “So why does Nuevo Leon have four times the per-capita GDP of Chiapas, despite the fact that both regions have been states of Mexico since 1824? The analysis in this paper suggests that one important reason is the di erence in geography between the two states. Relative to Nuevo Leon, the largest geographic disadvantage of Chiapas may be its tropical climate; Chiapas is 98% tropical whereas Nuevo Leon is only 18% tropical. In addition, Chiapas has greater terrain ruggedness, fewer mineral resources, and greater malaria risk than Nuevo Leon, all of which could contribute to Chiapas’ poor economic outcomes.”

Huh? Being in the tropics has not hurt Hawaii. What is the advantage Nuevo Leon has over Chiapas? Look at a map and the answer is plain.

Therapsid March 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm

The difference is that Chiapas is overwhelmingly indigenous while Nuevo Leon is more European. It’s like asking why Chile has twice the GDP per capita of Peru. The tropical penalty in GDP, to the extent it exists, reflects the fact that temperate areas in Latin America had much lower population densities of indigenous peoples and thus current populations are descended more from Spanish and other European settlers.

Basically, native peoples in Chiapas were more advanced than in Nuevo Leon, had more developed agriculture, and thus bigger populations. Paradoxically, the fact they were more advanced in pre-Columbian times means these regions are *less* advanced today.

Errorr March 28, 2013 at 2:10 am

The climate argument may be interesting. The high plateau of Mexico has been one of the most populated places on Earth for the past couple of Millennia for good reason while living in Chiapas is not fun, or easy, or pleasant. Plus, ummmm, the United States.

Axa March 31, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Nuevo Leon is just a short name for Monterrey metropolita area. Monterrey accounts for 90% of Nuevo Leon population.

The climate argument is just poor. Monterrey is really damned hot from March to November (40+ Celsius) even if it is not in the “tropics”, while San Cristobal de las Casas (los Altos region in Chiapas) has a nice temperate climate.

The answer may be that Chiapas was rich before the industrial revolution by producing sugar,chocolate, tobacco, coffee and other commodities. Land owners (capitalists) in Chiapas never felt the need to get into manufactuting in the 19th century in Chiapas. In the 21th century the local elite hasn’t grasped the idea of “manufacturing” yet. While resource poor Nuevo Leon jumped head first into the industrial revolution since the 19th century,

Michael March 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Chiapas is largely indigenous, whereas Nuevo Leon is mostly mestizo and therefore better integrated into Mexican society. Also, Nuevo Leon is wealthier for many of the same reasons that Mexico is wealthier than Boliva – proximity to the US.

David Wright March 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

One of the papers in Ariely’s reading list is “The Meaning of Default Options for Potential Organ Donors”. When I that, my first thought was “what can credit default swaps possibly have to do with organ donation?”

JWatts March 27, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I haven’t read the paper, but my wife was a tissue transplant tech during the 1990’s. Checking the Organ Donation on your Driver’s License meant little because the transplant organization has to get the permission of the next of kin within a few hours after death. Often at the moment of decision, the next of kin doesn’t want to deal with one more extraneous issue.

If you want to donate, make your relatives know that you want to donate. And tell them it’s important.

Claudia March 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm

It’s the difference between countries with opt in or opt out designations for volunteering for organ donation. Euro countries with opt in had volunteer rates well below 10 percent and those with opt out had rates around 90 percent. But JWatts is on to something of people not wanting to “deal with” it. Inertia is strong and so defaults can be powerful.

Andrew' March 28, 2013 at 6:47 am

Did they prove the causative direction? And the defaults might have a different effect. When they ask the next of kin for permission, they ‘might’ be more likely to approve if the brain dead person approved.

Douglas Knight March 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm

In reality, consent of the donor matters doesn’t matter and the gap in actual donation between opt-in and opt-out is fairly small. The changes in Spain and Italy in the past 20 years is much larger than the difference between opt-in and opt-out.

Andrew' March 28, 2013 at 6:48 am

In other words, default options may be important when rational self interest is forbidden.

Claudia March 28, 2013 at 7:25 am

Read the paper, Andrew and watch the defaults video. Btw this was the person (not next of kin) filling out a form well in advance of his or her demise. Defaults are powerful … even on you, I suspect. There are a lot of other examples: 401(k) participation, generic drug election, etc. As an economist, I am concerned about how little attention we pay to delivery and framing in policy design. As a normal person, I am concerned how much de facto influence is given to those who control the choice architecture.

JWatts March 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

I think the ‘Default’ option is a mixed case, because in the US there is no available ‘Default Yes’ option for donation. Often, when my wife was calling to ask permission for transplants, the immediate family would just ignore the DL Donor box being checked. A random check box doesn’t mean much when it has no effect.

Essentially, it’s only a true Default option if a patient will automatically be a donor unless somebody intervenes. In the US, regardless of a checkbox on your Driver’s License, the Default option is no donation unless the next of kin agrees to a donation. This is probably due to the potential for lawsuits in the US. So effectively the ‘Default’ option in the US is No.

Claudia March 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

organ donation paper was not about the US. besides it was about volunteering to donate not the actual harvesting which depends on many additional factors. there are many good papers of 401(k) enrollment in US based on opt in / opt out. but it’s true people still have a choice and some do choose against the grain, but many don’t.

Bill M March 30, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Too bad Enlightenment has not been picked up for a third season
http://www.buzzfeed.com/kateaurthur/enlighteneds-sad-fate

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