Assorted links

by on July 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Can matching models explain the unemployment dynamics of the Great Depression?

2. How much do the new gdp figures rely on measures of Chinese investment, and why are the Chinese getting so heavily into Bitcoin?

3. Are bee colonies really collapsing?: an economic perspective.

4. Can Big Data change our understanding of the American novel?

5. Is Urumqi central Asia’s most important city?

6. A trusted reader sent me this video link and I decided to post it without sampling it first.

Jeff J July 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

#3: This is a right-wing think tank perspective, not an economic one in the least. The article contradicts peer-reviewed papers.

Arjun July 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Err, what exactly is wrong with the article in question? Doesn’t seem like any blatant propaganda. They take data from reputable organizations, and the analysis seems pretty straightforward. And I question calling PERC a “right-wing think tank”–its obviously market-oriented and libertarianish, but are you really going to completely reject anything associated with it just because it doesn’t fall in line with your own ideological pre-conceptions?

George Doehner July 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

BitCon is the type of scam that would appeal to the Chinese. I would expect the government to crack down on it, if it becomes anything more than a temporary fad. A totalitarian government cannot tolerate an independent currency, even one that is a pyramid scheme, anymore than it can tolerate an independent press.

Jeff J July 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm

If you were going to seriously examine the economic effects of CCD, what would you start with? The price of honey?

No. Regan cherry picks data from reputable organizations and mixes it with data from biased ones. He claims a 2.8 cent per pound price increase for Smokehouse Almonds, citing a Rucker and Thurman paper produced by…. PERC.

Rejecting PERC has nothing to do with my own ideological pre-conceptions. Actually, that’s not true: I reject anything they say because they are only saying things that serve their funders’ interests. My own ideological pre-conceptions will not allow me to take biased material – propaganda – seriously. Presented with content with an obviously biased and motivated organization, and lacking any personal expertise in the subject, what other choice do I have?

Arjun July 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The main point I took away from the article was that bee populations were in decline long before the onset of widespread CCD, and that the population dynamics since 2006 have been fairly stable–largely due to the expertise and capacity of beekeepers to deal with the problems. Does that mean we shouldn’t worry about CCD and the probably human factor in causing collapses? No. But it does mean that we shouldn’t be expecting some sort of apocalypse around the corner. Although of course, such expectations may arise if things begin to change more rapidly in the coming decade.

Curt F. July 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

If you don’t take propaganda seriously then you probably don’t believe anything anyone says, ever. Everyone has an agenda. For example, my preconceptions do not allow me take seriously anyone who believes that they are the sole arbiter of (what in their minds is an “objective” determination of) bias.

Jeff J July 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Curt, I know I’m dumb. That’s why I have to be careful about what I read.

The historical record has plenty to say about industry-funded think tanks and their publications on tobacco, halogenated hydrocarbons, and carbon emissions. In hindsight it is obvious how wrong they were, and how they stacked up against the peer-reviewed publications. It was less obvious at the time. But hey, why not get all post-modern: maybe PERC is different.

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Do you believe peer-reviewed publications just because they are peer reviewed? Peer reviewers don’t. That’s why we have it. Another example of my favorite “X isn’t a problem because we did Y to fix problem X.”

Your examples might have some sampling bias, ya think? Turns out most industries are probably right about their industry more often than not. If you take “we have to do something 10 years ago to avoid cataclysm” of government-funded researchers as counterpoint then I suspect the industry-funded propaganda on carbon emissions has been more right.

Anyway, what do you think the point of the article is? They also do what I make fun of. They say CCD isn’t a problem because beekeepers are addressing it. In fact they don’t deny the existence of CCD at all, only the overall economic impact. But what they are addressing is the moral panic spread by journalists versus the expert opinion. The problem is you just can’t trust researchers, peer-reviewed or not, who claim their pet topic is the most important one to be thinking about.

I wonder what peer-reviewed papers you refer to. When I Google “economic impact of colony collapse disorder” I get the Rucker paper as the bottom link of the first page of results. What you call a PERC paper is a paper by 3 different people at different Universities. It looks to be trying to be a serious paper. I don’t see why it couldn’t be peer-reviewed.

Da July 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm

While I don’t share that articles view either, it’s still true that almost all great scientific discoveries contradicted the “peer-reviewed papers” (or analogues) of their times. So this is kind of a non-argument.

Jeff J July 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Yeah, yeah. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

JD July 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Your point being what, exactly? Perhaps you would care to share some more detailed information on how exactly the article is incorrect.

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm

No they didn’t. Clowns aren’t funny.

Chris S July 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm

“To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.”
— Jack Handey

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Arjun July 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I think this is a mistaken view. True, before modern scientific methodology existed, advancements and discoveries completely shattered previous conceptions of reality. But in my opinion, this was because the shattered illusions had very, very little relation to the scientific method as we understand it today. Once people started systemetizing science, and actually sticking to what can be actually proven and replicated, great scientific discoveries have been the result of iteration and building on previous work; and while advancements sometimes tend to contradict certain aspects of previous theories, they definitely tend to not ccompletely shatter previous conceptions like science did to pre-scientific supersititons. I.e. Newton and Einstein; while the Theory of Relativity totally up-ended how we imagine the universe, it didn’t suddenly render Newton’s insights as wrong–just limited on a certain scale.

So yeah, nowadays if arguments contradict the basic premises that are upheld by peer-reviewed papers, they’re most likely wrong. (an important point to understand specifically to the climate change “debate”).

Rich Berger July 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm

You may wish to read Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” to straighten out your thinking.

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Except that the purpose of peer-review ‘shouldn’t’ be to gatekeep on ideology. In fact, I suspect most peer-reviewers would bristle at such an accusation. Although this line might be blurred in the more social sciences.

George Doehner July 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm

You forgot to use the words “debunked” and “exposed.” That’s a requirement went dismissing inconvenient facts. The study is either “debunked” or the author was “exposed.”

Cliff July 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

You say it contradicts peer-reviewed papers, but you won’t say how? If you don’t know how, you can’t make that statement, right? And if you do know, surely you could just tell us? All it says is that beekeepers have so far been successfully adapting to CCD.

RPLong July 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm

So do they have their facts wrong, or did they draw the wrong conclusions from the right facts? What does the peer-reviewed literature have to say?

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

What is with this fetish for peer-review?

The Gardner July 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I like to watch.

Rahul July 17, 2013 at 12:01 am

You have a better alternative?

Andrew' July 17, 2013 at 6:10 am

Yeah. A realistic view of peer review. Considering that the purpose of peer review is formalized skepticism, one should still be skeptical of things peer-reviewed. Think about what peer-review actually does. It will tend to reinforce the zeitgeist and resist novel views.

Only believing things that are peer reviewed and believing them implicitly only because they are peer reviewed is not supported by reality. I’m for reality.

The Original D July 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

What’s the alternative? Non-reviewed speculation? The alternative healing industry does very well with that.

Jeff J July 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Record high honey prices rising by an average of 10.5% year by year:

Up 11% in 2012, 7% in 2011, 9% in 2010, 2% in 2009, 31% in 2008, down 0% in 2007, up 14% in 2006.
Yet production is dropping, or level at best.

Why did Regan omit this?

Not refereed, but presented by academics with professional reputations on the line:
Economic Consequences of Pollinator Declines: A Synthesis
Dana Marie Bauer and Ian Sue Wing

“In this paper, we argue that there is compelling
evidence for impending local or regional short-
ages of pollination services that could have dra-
matic economic implications. ”

I do have to apologize for my rash first comment. I quickly found a chart cited in multiple peer-reviewed articled that showed a substantial drop in colonies or bee populations, but the drop dated to well before the 2006 cutoff for CCD.

RPLong July 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate the follow-up. It is amazing that something as seemingly uncontroversial as bee colonies can generate such diversity of opinion. Always good to have more information.

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Again, they don’t dispute CCD. They just look at aggregate data to support a hypothesis that individual farmers are coping.

They are also not arguing against other peer-reviewed journal articles but against journalists looking for the next moral panic blockbuster.

Floccina July 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Record high honey prices rising by an average of 10.5% year by year:

Up 11% in 2012, 7% in 2011, 9% in 2010, 2% in 2009, 31% in 2008, down 0% in 2007, up 14% in 2006. Yet production is dropping, or level at best.

He did say that fees for pollination had doubled, that would go right along with doubling of honey prices which he might have not mentioned because he was addressing fears of a severe decline of supply of certain fruits.

FE July 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Let’s take a moment to google almond prices. Third link is an economic analysis by the Almond Board of California. It says that almonds cost $3,897/acre to grow, of which $280 is attributable to pollination (which I assume means bees).

Hazel Meade July 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I don’t see where they are “contradicting” any peer-reviewed papers.
They aren’t denying that CCD is happening, and they aren’t questioning any of the proposed causes. What they are saying is that the market is responding to the problem by replacing lost bee colonies. AFAIK, that doesn’t contradict any scientific assertions that anyone has made.

khars July 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm

The CCD article also contradicts my experience as a beekeeper.

yes colonies are dwindling/disappearing/dying at a higher rate than in years gone by.

Local honey costs a lot more than the stuff imported from China or Brazil – the former is not the same as the latter. Two different products. Yes even you could taste the difference.

Andrew' July 17, 2013 at 6:18 am

Neither of those points contradict the article. Here is how:

Total colonies = starting colones + new colonies – disappeared colonies

They don’t dispute that disappeared colonies is increasing, they just claim that beekeepers are also creating new colonies. They say:
“Although average winter mortality rates have increased from around 15% before 2006 to more than 30%, beekeepers have been able to adapt to these changes and maintain colony numbers”

I actually don’t even see in the article a discussion of honey prices. They talk about production. My criticism of the article is thus: maybe all the attention that CCD has gotten has served to cause the remedial steps in beekeeping.

Andrew' July 17, 2013 at 6:19 am

I should be less ambiguous here as “starting” might be misunderstood as newly started.

Total colonies = initial colones + new colonies – disappeared colonies

The article details how beekeepers are taking steps to create more and more new colonies.

Sammler July 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

#4: Someone sat down with ngrams for ten minutes, and this is somehow going to “change our understanding of the American novel”?

Brian Donohue July 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I actually thought the article was interesting. But this comment: “It excludes the dime novels favored by the lower class…” feels at least 50 years out of date itself.

Bender Bending Rodriguez July 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm

If we include fan fiction in the ngram dataset, will this mean that the great American novel will have to include transporters and sparkly vampires?

mulp July 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Well, from the summary I’m not convinced it is worth paying for more gobbledygook, but I think “match models” does explain employment dynamics.

Economics is zero sum, so everything needs to match.

production equals demand equals income equals consumption

Ford famously realized he could only succeed if his worker could afford to buy the cars they made.

Today, everyone wants to have workers be like the Chinese, producing 50% more than they consume so profits are really high which will funnel more and more cash into Wall Street where the cash will chase a falling supply of shares as cash rich corporations buy up other companies reducing the number of shares traded.

Why haven’t the number of IPOs exploded given the huge demand for shares of stock so the price goes down instead of up, or at least the same? If every unemployed were were allowed to issue shares, they could get cash to fund consumption and balance the economy out.

As more and more cash is sucked out in profits and sent chasing stocks or buying government debt, the wages and jobs are reduced because the production can not be consumed because the money is in asset churn. The puts downward pressure on jobs and wages to keep up or increase profits to send them chasing the asset churn, further cutting demand and consumption.

lower incomes equals lower consumption equals lower demand equals lower production.

It is zero sum.

AndrewL July 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Is this satire? I cannot tell.

RPLong July 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Why does mulp read MR?

Andrew' July 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

In Soviet USNSA, MR read you!

Rich Berger July 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Mrs. Mulp has gotten tired of listening to him and told him to go take his ideas to MR.

Ricardo July 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Your question is zero-sum. You should issue some shares and boost consumption. Henry Ford understood that demand equals production equals production equals demand, putting downward pressure on IPO churn.

peterwu July 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

The main point I took away from the article was that bee populations were in decline long before the onset of widespread CCD, and that the population dynamics since 2006 have been fairly stable–largely due to the expertise and capacity of beekeepers to deal with the problems. Does that mean we shouldn’t worry about CCD and the probably human factor in causing collapses? No. But it does mean that we shouldn’t be expecting some sort of apocalypse around the corner. Although of course, such expectations may arise if things begin to change more rapidly in the coming decade. – See more at:

Andrew' July 17, 2013 at 6:21 am

What would me worrying about it do for the problem? I should spend less time on my expertise and think long and hard about the solution to a problem they haven’t even nailed down yet? I think that is what the article is getting at.

Jacob A. Geller July 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

#1 Note that sticky wages are still a big part of the matching-model story.

Shane M July 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm

#4. I have no dog in this hunt, but it seems the assertion that since colonies declined before discovery of CCD in 2006 that “this gradual decline happened prior to 2006 and cannot be attributed to CCD.” It seems that CCD could have been in existence prior to it’s discovery and actually be behind the decline and behind the search for the decline. If you discover something after the damage is done – it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t cause the damage.

In any events, bee colonies have not recovered to previous levels absent some external shock. Admittedly the decline could be due to other factors – lower demand for bees / foreign competition/ substitutes /other?

From the graph: @3.2 million colonies in 1990, @2.7 million in 2012.

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