Assorted links

by on April 14, 2014 at 11:50 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How the Japanese are reengineering (and improving) on American culture.

2. Viagra ice cream markets in everything.

3. Insights into and how it views its competitors.  And here is Joshua Gans on Vox.

4. Philippe Legrain, European Spring, a useful and well-written popular look at the European economic mess, $2.99 on Kindle.

5. I call it the Thomas Piketty clothing line.  (The important point, however, is that Zara is much more important these days and that militates against Piketty.)  Here Diane Coyle reviews Piketty.

6. Chrystia Freeland dialogue with Larry Summers, starts at about 40:00.  It is the best Larry video I have viewed.  Here is a Sendhil Mullainathan talk on machine learning which I have not viewed.

7. Mohamed El-Arian is now writing for Bloomberg.

8. The new academic celebrity.

1 Rich Berger April 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm

3. Call me in a year if vox is still here.

2 JWatts April 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I agree with this completely. Why do I care about how Vox thinks it’s doing after a week? That’s the domain of the serious media navel gazers.

3 J April 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm
4 Rahul April 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm

….and hypemongers gonna hype.

5 ummm April 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

The domain name itself is worth more than the content because 3 letter .coms are very rare and much sought after. Not sure how they got it , unless they paid a fortune for it. A good investment though

6 prior_approval April 14, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Maybe its time for someone to write ‘In Praise of Commercial Academic Celebrity,’ then hit the lecture circuit.

Or instead, as the article notes, keep one’s options open for this more traditional eventuality – ‘the economist who moves from the faculty lounge to the White House.’ (Anyone know if John T. Hazel, Jr. Hall has a faculty lounge for members of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, like the Econ faculty?)

7 RPLong April 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

#8 is a good read, but I think the problem is our need to make celebrities out of anyone with a good idea, rather than making the idea itself the focal point. There is something incredibly inauthentic about TED talks. They make us feel like we’re participating in an intelligent discussion, even though the discussion has been stripped of all its intelligence.

Probably true of most academic blogs, now that I think about it.

8 Steve Sailer April 14, 2014 at 11:28 pm

“When Tyler Cowen, the George Mason University economist, launched his blog Marginal Revolution, in 2003, he imagined reaching 4,000 people a day. Now the number of visitors is in the hundreds of thousands.”

Isn’t the implication that hundreds of thousands visit MR “a day” exaggerated.

9 Rahul April 15, 2014 at 2:54 am


10 P April 15, 2014 at 3:53 am

Between 2003 and May 2012, MR had 50 million visitors, or about 14,000 a day. If it has, say, 300,000 visitors per day now, then it must have seen exponential growth in the last two years, getting more than 100 million visitors each year. Color me skeptical.

11 Bob April 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm

In Japan, the ability to perfectly imitate—and even improve upon—the cocktails, cuisine and couture of foreign cultures isn’t limited to American products; there are spectacular French chefs and masterful Neapolitan pizzaioli who are actually Japanese.

Really puts the lie to the argument made by pro-immigrationists that immigration is necessary for ethnic food. Turns out you just need the recipe and a little practice. This is the case in the US as well, where some of the most popular ethnic food trucks and ethnic restaurants recently have been started by non-immigrant, non-ethnic Americans. The popular Mexican chain Chipotle which tastes better than most Mexican joints was started by a guy named Steve Ells in Indiana.

12 Rahul April 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm

The recipe, a little practice & lots of money. I bet these places he’s describing aren’t cheap.

13 Bob April 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm

You don’t need lots of money to enjoy American style and non-Japanese cuisine in Japan made and served by Japanese. The second biggest fast food chain in Japan is a native Japanese chain called MOS Burger. The biggest is McDonald’s, which is operated and staffed by Japanese.

BTW, unbeknownst to most Americans, most sushi places in the US are actually run by Koreans or Chinese, whose native folk cuisines are as removed from sushi and sashimi as Western cuisines are.

14 Ivar April 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

You can push this argument too far. While Mexicans and other Latins often do the menial work in Chinese restaurants, they usually need the head chef to be Chinese and to cater to Chinese clientele to be good. Most of the restaurants that cater to Americans — PF Chang’s, Panda Express — are terrible to mediocre and at best overpriced.

15 Jake April 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm

And you can push your argument too far as well. Most Chinese restaurants run by Chinese in the US are terrible to mediocre. Most of them are equal to or lesser in quality to Panda Express.

16 Ivar April 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Of course there’s a difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Though most restaurants are mediocre, as far as I know there are simply no American Chinese restaurants equal to those high end Japanese American or Japanese French establishments. Good American Chinese places try to be fusion or gourmet in some odd way. No US restaurant run entirely by caucasians is able or willing to provide a rarefied authentic Chinese high quality experience that matches what the Japanese can do for authentic American, Italian, or French food.

17 Jake April 14, 2014 at 10:27 pm

That’s not true. For example, see Ed Schoenfeld for Chinese, Andy Ricker for Thai, Harold Deiterle for Thai, Alex Stupak for Mexican, Rick Bayless for Mexican, etc.

18 J April 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I work with an Italian fellow who insists that the US got a raw deal with the culinary traditions of its southern Italian immigrants. According to him northern Italian cooking is far superior, with Bolognese cooking the best of all.

19 Rahul April 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Is he from the North?

20 J April 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Yup, Veneto to be specific, though he’s lived most of his life in the US and Canada so in most respects he’s American.

21 Tarrou April 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm

And most of the haute cuisine, from French to Fusion, is actually cooked by Guatemalans and Mexicans. When you look beyond the “chef” to the actual cook, you find that for the most part (with some notable exceptions), Americans don’t much care for the sort of lifelong obsessiveness and insane work hours it takes to really perfect a craft.

22 Rahul April 15, 2014 at 1:48 am

I think you are generalizing too much. I know Americans who are master woodworkers, boat builders, etc. Obviously crafts that need obsessiveness & long work hours.

The cooking analogy is misplaced: those are long hours for very little pay. Often the lower staff in kitchens are low pay immigrants.

23 chuck martel April 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm

It’s interesting that the Japanese, or at least some of them, appreciate and attempt to preserve some of the best of the American past, a phenomenon normally only found in the US in the decor of barbecued-rib joints. How Bob Dylan fits into this is even more interesting.

24 Aaron Aardvark April 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm

#5 – nice torn jeans; good to know that, deep down, she is one of us

25 Adrian Ratnapala April 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm


In Japan, the ability to perfectly imitate—and even improve upon—the cocktails, cuisine and couture of foreign cultures isn’t limited to American products; there are spectacular French chefs and masterful Neapolitan pizzaioli who are actually Japanese.

Perhaps cookery is an unfair example. The impression I get is that the Japanese cuisine is the ultimate in high-falutin’ food snobbery. Therefore anyone who can make it as a Japanese chef can also make it as a French one. The Pizza thing is presumably for the rank dropouts.

26 ummm April 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

#8 this is new? Cornel West anyone?

27 Urso April 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Per #1, I’d love to see the Japanese version of (and improvement upon!) highway 61 Revisited.

28 Adrian Ratnapala April 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

#3 I didn’t realize that Vox was trying to compete with Wikipedia on “trust”. In fact I didn’t realise that journalists beleived they, as a category, were more trusted than the category of “random weirdos posting on the interweb”.

I mean I trust myself more than I do Ezra Klein.

29 Nick April 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Vox is Daily Kos or THink Progress with charts. This whole charade about explaining the news is completely laughable. Yes, I need the news explained by a young lefist with zero real world experience. If I wanted that, I would just read kos.

30 KV April 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm

BTW, what actually qualifies as “real world experience”? That phrase is tossed around so much it seems to have lost all meaning…

31 Vernunft April 15, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Hey Ezra – not you. That’s what “real world experience” is. hth

32 Rahul April 15, 2014 at 1:12 am

If you get a rash, there is a page on Wikipedia about rashes. But you don’t go to that page. You go to the page on WebMD or the Mayo Clinic or whatever. That page is kept up by people who are experts in rashes. You go there because of the quality of writing and information and the organization standing behind it.

That’s pretty idiotic. I trust Wikipedia a hell lot more than WebMD. I challenge Ezra to show how the quality of writing & information on WebMD beats Wikipedia. That’s just BS.

33 Eyes on You April 15, 2014 at 2:35 am

East Asians are obsessed with white people. You can write many books and films about it. Strangely, it isn’t something that is talked about much. Japanese especially are drawn to Victorian England (1837-1901) and post World War II America (1945-1963). Japanese traveled across Europe during the Meiji period to find a government to model Japan after. Japan chose Great Britain. All the stage craft, dinner ware, military rank, whatever you can think of was copied in great detail from Great Britain. Japanese don’t mention it though. I watched a Japanese documentary on the history of the royal household and there wasn’t a single mention of the British origins of anything. Some person once said East Asians look at imitation as mastery.

34 Foster the People April 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Meiji Japan modeled itself on the Prussian-German model, not Great Britain.

35 Eyes on You April 15, 2014 at 9:02 pm

‘Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of Imperial rule.’ Japan’s Charter Oath of 1868

Meiji Japan’s constitution was modeled after the Prussian constitutional monarchy. I was talking about physical things like military uniforms, royal attire, dinnerware, etc. Japan had many European and American influences. Japan looked at Europe like a buffet and took what they wanted. The Smithsonian article shows that same behavior again with American products.

36 M April 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

“What we see in Japan, in a wide range of pursuits, is a focus on mastery,” says Sarah Kovner, who teaches Japanese history at the University of Florida. “It’s true in traditional arts, it’s true of young people who dress up in Harajuku, it’s true of restaurateurs all over Japan.”

Yes, they will for economic reasons work otherwise, but the focus is on doing things well, not with passion, with speed, with efficiency, with resilience, with balance, except as these are facets of doing things well.

(This can be good, or bad. Focusing on doing things well, too much, can lead you to not doing things well, or not achieving any greater ends than to do a task well.)

And they do not believe that foreigners do it better, automatically, while having a genuine interest in forms (these traits often do not go together so much in other nations – those of us who think there is no special magic to foreigners have little interest in their arts, while those who have interest in their arts underestimate their own nation’s ability).

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