Assorted links

by on April 12, 2013 at 11:09 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The increasing popularity of fermented foods in America.

2. Die große Stagnation (in German, article by me).

3. Jayson Lusk’s *The Food Police*, new book.

4. Are fat southerners simply more truthful?

5. One account of working at Lehman.

6. Interview with Carmen Reinhart, very sharp interview with Kramnik.

Gabriel E April 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

Tyler, I’m curious to know if the German article was translated, or if you wrote it in German.

Tyler Cowen April 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

Translated…

prior_approval April 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

By Elisabeth Thielicke, actually. German print media is generally quite good at crediting the necessary work of translators, every at the beginning of the translation, or the end, as in this case – ‘Aus dem Englischen übersetzt von Elisabeth Thielicke.’

It will be interesting to see if anyone comments – the article has already been online for more than a week (Die Zeit comes out every Thursday).

But then, the idea of the Great Stagnation is a lot harder to sell in Germany, if only because Germans continue to develop technology in a fashion unlikely to get much attention. Take ‘Anlagenbau’ as an example of an innovative industrial sector – the word is not exactly translatable into English, with something like ‘plant engineering’ being almost wrong, at least in terms of what facility planning and construction involves in the real world. But German industry continues to make excellent money worldwide from something Americans do not really have a word for. Of course, Anlagenbau is not mass production – it is about creating the facilities and infrastructure which are the basis for mass production. For anyone interested in a more German perspective of how this ties into a real world economy, search for the term ‘hidden champion’ – for those that can read German, wikipedia is a help – de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_Champion

ChrisA April 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

PA, I would have thought that most people in Germany would actually be more receptive to this thesis than in the US. Whenever I visit Germany (primarily Frankfurt) I am always struck by how old fashioned the place seems, and how much less stuff people have in their houses. One of my German colleagues said to me once, “You Americans all live like Movie Stars”. And the OECD figures bear this out, median income in Germany is only 68% of US (adjusted for PP) in 2007, which I think flatters Germany. What seems to be the case is that Germany is stuck in a mechanical manufacturing specialist trap. They offer good quality highly specialized equipment, that is better than the stuff offered by their competitors, but it is not must-have stuff. Its like a good electrical engineer, he or she can get a good wage compared with the average engineer, but not radically so, because at the end of the day, an electrical engineer can only offer so much value (as an electrical engineer). A great lawyer, or author, or business developer or fashion designer or financial specialist can add much more value than that. And the highly specialist nature of German education (and also their moral system) means that it is difficult for them to compete in these more abstract, more chaotic areas. Of course Germany has also avoided the downsides of some of this, with low personal debt and steady employment. But at the end of the day the people of Germany are poorer even than people on Cyprus. Ironically Germans, because of their law abiding and easily tracked way of working, are much easier to tax and exploit.

Rahul April 13, 2013 at 3:42 am

I agree with you. Between US and Germany the stagnation is more palpable in Germany.

No doubt Germans may be ahead in the technology game, but keep in mind that a lot of the German technical megamachine was already strong in the 70′s and 80′s.

Frankfurt of the 80′s versus today is a lot more similar than, say, Chicago of the 80′s versus today.

Zach April 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

I would say that Germans are more old-fashioned about life in general than Americans. Protestant work ethic, live close to where you were born, produce value by working hard instead of working differently.

Sometimes the American strategy is best, sometimes it isn’t (I’ve lived in Germany throughout the recent recession — the Germans were barely touched by it). But the thing about the Protestant work ethic is that it’s rarely an actively bad strategy. 80 million conscientious, hardworking, sober people (who are possibly a little too committed to doing things The Way They Have Always Been Done) could be just the thing for an era for an era of small productivity gains and relatively large returns to process refinement.

Foster Boondoggle April 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Any book that characterizes people who happen to have strong opinions about food as “fascist” (from book description at Amazon) goes straight to my “don’t bother” list. This one is obviously written for the dittoheads.

anon April 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Yes, the warnings about the brave new world we’re seeing are getting very annoying. Better to ignore.

john personna April 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

My frustration would be that there are few I can talk to about the straight poop (heh, human microbiota joke) from the science feeds. “Crunchies” veer off in the raw-vegan direction, but anyone wishing to distinguish themselves from those ends up arguing 40 oz steaks and Big Gulps. It is as if the battle is over-selection of “healthy” versus over-selection of “unhealthy.” Instead of opposing chants of “tastes great” and “less filling” we have “vegan” and “Big Gulp.”

Eric S. April 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Any ad hominem involving the term “dittoheads” goes straight to my “don’t bother” list. Come on, say “Faux News” next.

Foster Boondoggle April 12, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I thought “dittohead” was the self-chosen term for Limbaugh’s followers. Unlike “fascist” for foodies.

This isn’t a definitive source, but provides evidence: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Rush%20Limbaugh%20Ditto%20Head

CaptBackslap April 12, 2013 at 3:19 pm

The book looks horrid, but it brings to mind a larger question: when did eating like a goat with tapeworms become a point of pride for conservatives? I understand the pitiful subservience to agribusiness that underlies the political side of things, but the idea that personally eating a case of store-brand bacon in one sitting is somehow sticking it to liberals doesn’t make a damned bit of sense.

john personna April 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I’d think it would be both conservative, and healthy, to eat like our grandmothers told us (for most values of “grandmothers.”)

anon April 12, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Maybe the fermented food article has some insight, but only if you can read it as it appears to be behind a paywall.

Finch April 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

#4 was quite funny: “UAB study compared nine Census Bureau regions and found that East Souh[sic] Central was fifth, not first, in percentage of its population obese.”

jurisdebtor April 12, 2013 at 2:46 pm

#3–Agreed 100%. We don’t need government requiring producers to disclose to the public that the meat in the burger they’ve been getting at McD’s has been sprayed with ammonia, or that Monsanto and like companies label their products as GMO or not. Let the markets work it out. If consumers are unhappy with or otherwise want a product to change, they should stop buying it. So if we want to change the labeling on food, we need a market solution . . . stop buying food. Starvation is a small price to pay to let markets rule.

I cannot understand this notion that somehow food producers are under attack from the “food police”. Veggie Libel Laws, the loose labeling requirements on most products, and the impotent FDA all give producers a fair amount of autonomy. “So before Big Brother and Animal Farm merge into a socialist nightmare . . . ” Too late, Monsanto et al have achieved regulatory capture.

ChrisA April 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm

@jurisdebtor

The protection you have is the tort laws. Major corporations are most unlikely to want to poison their customers for these reasons alone.

Requiring certification that something has or doesn’t have a particular ingredient in it may sound like a harmless idea, but there are real costs in obtaining this certification. One of the most major ones is that it is more expensive and difficult for the smaller companies to comply than larger companies (who can spread their compliance costs over a greater volume). This inhibits new entrants to the market place, slowing down the pace of innovation.

Also, if there really is genuine concern over a particular ingredient, then I would suggest that the market place would very quickly offer products that did not contain that ingredient for those who are concerned without the Government requiring it (hello Gluten Free Bread).

JWatts April 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

4. Are fat southerners simply more truthful?

Yes. But I’m curious if this report gets widely reported. It will definitely cause some cognitative dissonance.

john personna April 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm

The other variable is how often people get on scales.

JWatts April 12, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I don’t follow you?

john personna April 12, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Are inaccurate self-reporters combining wishful thinking with a more distant memory of actually weighing themselves?

prasad April 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

What does 6a have to do with 6b?

Matt April 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm

#5

The author acts like the pension funds and union funds were actually run by naive retirees and construction workers. These are multi-billion dollar funds, much larger than most hedgefunds, and elementary school teachers don’t actual decide CALPERS’s portfolio. They gobbled up RMBS becuase it was sort of risky yet AAA rated and they could only invest in AAA.

Jamie April 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

No, they simply act as though the cardinal rule of exchange applies: who benefits?

Too much of finance is negative Pareto. Put another way, when you make, value and sell the market, there is a problem. For everyone else.

Donald Pretari April 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm
Shane M April 13, 2013 at 6:25 am

#4. Interesting. a) Women tend to under-report weight more. b) Men tend to over-report height more making BMI look better than it is. And this on a phone survey with someone you’ll never see/meet. Is this more a reflection of desired self-image? I don’t see the benefit (cognitively I guess?) of outright lying. I guess there’s always the possibility that the respondents just don’t know also and respond what they think their weight is “on a good day, in the morning, before/eating drinking, without clothes on…”

Ray Lopez April 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

@#5 – this guy was not made to work on Wall Street, that simple. Excerpts: “The experience [of making money on Wall Street by taking advantage of rubes] reminded me of one as a child when I unfairly sold some worthless items to neighbors at a stoop sale in front of our house in Brooklyn. When my parents found out that night, they made me go from home to home on our block returning the money. …[on whether you would rather have somebody shit on your face or work at Lehman, for the same money] Eventually the answer for all of us was unequivocally, “Shit on the face.” So something I know now: When you’d rather have someone shit on your face than go to work, it’s probably time to leave.”

sanjiv April 14, 2013 at 12:52 am

“Put another way, when you make, value and sell the market, there is a problem. For everyone else.”

Nicely put.

“this guy was not made to work on Wall Street, that simple”

Good for him.

Jayson Lusk April 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Im a bit surprised by the strong conclusions being drawn about my book, which isn’t even released till Tuesday. I don’t advocate unhealthy eating. I advocate policy based on scientific, evidenced-based thinking. You’ll find hundreds of reference to research on topics related to fat taxes, local foods, farm policy, organics, biotechnology, and behavioral economics, just to give a few examples. While I don’t expect everyone will agree with me, I’d hope they’d at least read the book to know what they’re disagreeing with.

Jordan Walker April 21, 2013 at 12:11 am

I always get upset when your assorted links link to pay-walled sites. I see a description that sounds interesting and then realize it isn’t worth the time, effort, or money to proceed further. Perhaps I’m missing out on something great regarding kimchi and sauerkraut, but I guess that is the way it will have to be. I personally think the Wall Street Journal can come up with better ways of monetizing their content, but until then perhaps you would put something like a ($) next to pay-walled content to let us infovores know what we are getting into.

Clinton April 24, 2013 at 9:01 pm

erwo stało błogie, siarka tudzież saletra sam Clinton z
hufnalami ważyły skromniej niżeli naukowe owcze bebechy.
Tej
cenny, wyjąwszy tej poprzez gąszcz, nie stało. Zbrojni obstawiali szczelnie
smoczą pieczarę,

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