Assorted links

by on July 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How should Egypt reform its economy?

2. Shaming ex-vegans as traitors.

3. Short overview of shadow banking in China.

4. The economics of slut-shaming.

5. Laura Miller’s summary of the eBook pricing war and antitrust suit.

6. The world we have lost: perfume that smells like a book.

7. Reihan Salam joins the R Street Institute.

8. What makes an art work seem dated?

Steven Kopits July 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Some interesting, if OT, oil facts:

The global oil business has spent $3.5 trillion on upstream spend–for exploration and production–over the last seven years. That’s more than the GDP of Germany.

The increase in upstream spend over the past seven years, compared to the previous seven years, was $2 trillion. That’s more than the GDP of Italy.

For that incremental $2 trillion, we were able to increase the oil supply by a modest 4.1 mbpd or 5% (0.7% per annum).

In the previous seven years (through 2005), we were able to increase crude oil production by 8.6 mbpd, on total upstream spend of $1.5 trillion. Not incremental spend, total spend.

And it’s worse than that. Of the 4.1 mbpd gain to 2012, half was natural gas liquids, not crude oil at all. Conventional production, including Iraq and all the legacy producers but excluding US and Canadian unconventionals and incremental NGLs, fell by about 1 mbpd from 2005 to 2012.

In other words, $3.5 trillion dollars in spend was not enough to arrest the decline of the conventional base as it existed in 2005.

For conventional production, 2005 remains the peak year.

de Broglie July 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

What are your thoughts on peak oil? Any information would be more interesting than the links above. You seem to disagree with the IHS forecasts. Why are they wrong?

mulp July 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Obviously the Democrats putting a $100 a barrel carbon tax has driven up the cost of finding oil….

Or maybe oil got harder to find and produce in 2007 because Democrats refuse to believe the earth produces and infinite supply of oil.

Or, the oil companies wanted to defeat Democrats and Obama so they have conspired to drive up the costs of finding oil in order to drive up energy prices so voters will return Republicans to power, who believe in infinite oil and that will make oil easier to find.

Democrats don’t believe in god so god is hiding all his oil until Republicans are back in power.

Whatever the energy topic, the news is bad and Obama and Pelosi are to blame. Do not look for any explanation in the natural world.

TallDave July 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Aren’t buildouts usually around ten years, though? I think that may be confusing “hey look at all these great investment opportunities high oil prices can justify!” with “we’re spending way more and not getting much back.”

Of course, rather than “when will the oil run out?” smart people ask “what will the price of a barrel of oil be in 2050? 2100? 2150?” And there’s a lot of variables in there. As oil prices go up, replacements become more economically attractive, efficiency is more cost-effective, etc.

Gabe July 3, 2013 at 11:50 am

“Conventional” production in 1880 was Killing whales. Conventional is always on decline as the definition shifts.

Dan in Philly July 2, 2013 at 2:05 pm

1) Art reflects ideas
2) Ideas change in fashion or are discredited quickly
3) Ideas which are reflected in movies that are no longer held by the viewer will seem dated, while ideas which are held by the viewer will not.

I would say that the main staying power of a book like “The Great Gatsby” for example is the fact that the way it portrays the rich is stereotypical in ways which are still held today.

James July 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Are you sure the staying power of a book like “The Great Gatsby” isn’t largely due to the fact that it’s read and taught in public school high schools every year? The book’s portrayal of rich WASPs is very dated.

If it wasn’t on every high school English class reading list, most people probably would not have heard about it.

Dan in Philly July 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I suggest that the bigotry in the book resonates with those who choose high school curriculum.

x July 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Regarding (5), I fail to see what’s the role of publishers with e-books since it seems to me authors could sell books directly just like software programmers can sell apps directly.

So, it appears to me that the correct outcome is that book publishers go out of business, and authors can then directly sell on Amazon, Apple, etc. platforms with minimal revenue going to Amazon and Apple.

It seems the issues towards this are:

1. Book publishers are probably using the segment of consumers who are too backwards to prefer e-books to hold hostage the transition to e-books so they can continue to line their pockets rather than going out of business as they finally should

2. Amazon and Apple are colluding to set sky-high commissions such as 30%, rather than a more reasonable 0-5%.

Possible government solution:

1. Ban selling printed books (keep giving them away legal of course) to force an immediate transition to e-books, and the immediate elimination of wasteful book publishing and library businesses

2. Force Amazon, Apple, and all other de-facto-monopolistic stores to charge not more than 1-5% commissions, and force them let anyone sell at the price they want, with no other transfers and no discrimination

It is quite an invasive solution though, but it seems hard to find a more “free-marketish” solution other than completely abolishing copyright, which however has other downsides.

Tom Noir July 2, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Most authors seem to prefer having publishers. A publisher fulfills roles besides simply printing a physical book. They also make sure it is properly produced, packaged and marketed. They negotiate the terms with the distributors. They deal with the business side of selling books. They do a lot of things authors would rather not bother with.

Arguably, there is still a place for publishers for authors that want them. They shouldn’t go away. They should just be… smaller. Authors who wish to bypass publishers already can.

Tom West July 2, 2013 at 7:44 pm

The primary service that publishers provide is to get books in front of half a million or so people right when they want to buy a book, in other words, it gets the books into bookstores. If bookstores disappear, then, yes, the main service they provide (and for which they get the vast majority of the revenue) is lost and publishers are probably doomed.

But why on earth should bookstores be obligated to die when there’s still (at least for now) a public that wants them. Your logic is… odd.

And more to the point, the chance of a successful e-book career rises from probably 0.01% to fairly substantial (50%?) if you’ve had a semi-successful paper book career (i.e. successful enough to get fans and name recognition, even if not successful enough to remain in print.) If you have the choice (and it’s a big if), then going paper with a real publisher first is a vastly better idea career-wise.

(Of course, the odds of getting conventionally published are probably 1 in 100, and the odds of a conventionally published author being semi-successful or better are probably 1 in 2, so we’re not talking great odds as an author no matter how you slice it.)

Chris S July 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Please place your forecast on a timeline, along witha graph of the ebook/paper book ratio.

Tom West July 3, 2013 at 2:20 am

I’m confused. I didn’t make a forecast.

If I was to predict the demise of paper, I imagine it will be a tipping point situation. Paper will continue to erode slowly (I think most of the easy adoption has already taken place), but at some point, the economics of paper books distributed in small numbers to a large number of locations will send things over a cliff and paper publishing will be confined only to best-sellers. The catalyst will probably be the demise of Barnes and Nobles. (Which will be ironic. Finally the small bookstores are free of their (previously) biggest competitor, and the publishers can’t produce books at a price that people are willing to buy them for…)

Once bookstores are dead, the publishers follow shortly thereafter. After all, what author with any name is going to trade 2/3 of the money for a few measly “special edition” paper sales?

Unfortunately, my prediction would also be that the e-book retailers learn that there’s more money to be made from people who want to become authors than from selling good books to people. More and more books get (self) published as e-books become “real books”, but without the gatekeeping the publishers provided, fewer and fewer people find it worthwhile to spend the time trying to find worthwhile material, especially as it’s easy to find other amusements on the e-reader (movies, games, etc.) when a book gets slow or challenging. Amazon makes most of its book money by selling on-site advertising to would-be authors desperate to promote their self-published books.

My guess (and it’s just a total guess): 5 years for 80% of titles to be e-only, 8 years before publishers are functionally no longer present, 20 years before books occupy the same place in culture that poetry does. However, I could easily see it being 5 years later for everything.

x July 3, 2013 at 5:27 am

The public that wants bookstores is behaving irrationally and causing waste.

If they invested the small amount of time and money needed to learn about e-books and buy suitable devices if needed, they would then save lots of time and money (no need to commute to the bookstore, cheaper books since they don’t pay for the useless bookstore), and eliminate wasteful jobs.

Furthermore, there’s a tragedy of the commons effect where everyone would be much better off without the wasted effort in keeping bookstores open, but while bookstores are there they have more incentive to go there, so they support them.

Obviously I don’t expect any government do this, and dislike the non-libertarian character of this, but it’s technically an long-term economically advantageous regulation.

BTW, in general, outlawing all retail businesses would be even better, for the same reasons.

efp July 2, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Hmm, this is the second link to a pen-fetish site in the last few days. Which law says “there’s porn for that?”

TerriW July 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm

(Rule 34, of course.)

kiwi dave July 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

re 2

Is it (a) serious (b) tongue in cheek, but basically serious, or (c) parody?

My guess is (b), but I may be wrong.

JohnC July 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm

It seems pretty serious, at least at first (i.e., Sheryl Bustamante: I just want to sell her out for preferring her husband over me and.”), Especially with the responsive confessions on how it felt to lose their veganity. (This pretty much sums up those first apostate nibbles:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsTO57M3KgA&sns=em )

I want to add Hitler’s name: “He claims to be a vegan – even called beef broth “corpse tea” – but the poser’s been slamming protein injections made from the placenta and bull testicles. Total VINO. “

Roy July 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm

While I am no fan of the first Mad Max film, it is undeniably a better movie than Walkabout. Lousy movies become dated very quickly, the lousier the more quickly. Just thinking about mediocre movies, After The Thin Man, 1937??, is a lot less dated than last years “The Raven”. Heck the Schwartzenegger Total Recall is less dated than the Colin Farrell one.

TerriW July 3, 2013 at 8:11 am

Note also how dated Phantom Menace looks compared to the original Star Wars — cgi vs. models on top of a story you care about vs. one you don’t.

TallDave July 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm

1. The institutional problems are much larger, and nearly intractable. They are going to have to do some nasty surgery to remove the ugly oligarchic cancer that permeates the Egyptian economy. It’s so corrupt it’s hard to even imagine where one could begin, probably most of the judiciary belongs behind bars.

So Much For Subtlety July 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Well I would think the best thing they could do is become Methodists. En masse. That may cure some of their problems. Failing that perhaps the best short term solution is to stop persecuting Copts.

But you want to bet that they will do neither and the situation will only become worse for the foreseeable future?

(And of course the only economic reform they are likely to try that might actually work is putting a third of the male population on a boat to Italy.)

JohnC July 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm

“And because the Kindle is a “closed platform” — Kindle e-books can only be read on Kindle devices or apps — the more Kindle e-books a customer owned, the more reluctant she’d be to switch to a different device.”

Or, she realizes that a free download of Calibre, etc. gets rid of that pesky problem in three clicks.

C July 2, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Regarding 4: would have been nice if the author defined what she means by slut-shaming (or the patriarchy for that matter).

crs July 3, 2013 at 8:18 am

I think both are pretty straightforward … at least as she needs them to make the point. Keeping terms fuzzy also helps bridge to the importance of cultural/peer group norms, which I don’t think gets enough attention in the piece.

Norms related to sex (esp., outside of marriage) and other things like alcohol and drugs can vary a lot across cultures, even fairly similar ones. My comparison was US and (Eastern) Germany and it was almost funny the debates about which had more sensible norms, maybe the economics differed but not that much. So “slut-shaming” and “patriarchy” can take different forms and be applied to curb different behaviors, makes sense.

C July 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

I think the fuzzy-ness is the problem. I took feminist theory courses back during my graduate work, and certainly many a post-structural theory class (so, I’m used to seeing it deployed), but I’ve grown very suspicious over the years of posts, papers, forum comments, that tend to strategically rely on fuzzy buzzwords like “patriarchy” and, in this case, “slut-shaming.” I would have appreciated more theoretical rigor, adn less buzz.

crs July 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

fair enough. then how would you re-frame the question, in a more structured way? I didn’t think the crux of the post with the economic model depended that much on the two terms.

C July 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I’m not sure how I would reframe the question, because I’m not sure how the author is using those two terms. However, in order to try to get closer to answering your question, I would ask the author this question: “Are ‘patriarchy’ and ‘slut-shaming’ historically and culturally contingent (i.e., they are not homogeneous across time and cultures) or are they not historically and culturally contingent (i.e.,g they are homogeneous across time and cultures)”?

crs July 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

well “historically and culturally contingent” sure sounds more refined than my “fuzzy” … thanks. I don’t see how the two terms could not be contingent, but I have no expertise in this area.

the smell of certain books July 3, 2013 at 12:17 am

Maybe it is just my ignorance but I have never found on the internet (often looked, however) a comment on the extraordinarily unique smell Ballantine Books had for the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbits paperbacks up until the late eighties (I think) – Finnish Pine? Baltic spring? Warwickshire birch? I have also found it in a few other Ballantine fantasy books and, surprisingly, in a Star Trek trilogy by David Mack last year (shoulda bought it, didn’t, the next press runs did not have that smell). Is this one of those things regarding which, pace TC, there are no studies or papers?

ChrisA July 4, 2013 at 5:52 am

Re: Egypt – the problem is that there are really two populations in Egypt, one highly educated, smart and western looking (and small) and the other, the masses, largely uneducated (or badly educated), medieval in outlook and fairly low intelligence. The two populations are largely separate and interact only through the educated class employing maids and other servants (they never intermarry). This has been true for centuries. The two populations want totally different countries and solutions (economic, political, cultural) and there doesn’t really seem a good compromise between them. The best that can be done in the short term is a semi-autocracy I think which merely aims to keep the peace in whatever way feasible, which is why Mubarak survived as long as he did. I argued strongly against this idea when I lived in Egypt, but I think I was mistaken now. By the way, this divide is not Christian/Islam, it is devout vs secular.

Long term, I think the secular will win, as technologies such as internet gradually condition the masses to accept more modern ideas. But this is going to take time, the typical Egyptian male is very conservative.

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