Assorted links

by on August 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Are forward interest rates outrageously low?  Evan Soltas considers whether “secular stagnation” fits the data.

2. Pictures of Chinese acrobatics.

3. Did capital controls help during the Great Depression?

4. The real problem with Big Data?

5. The entire Loeb Classical Library is now on-line.

6. How segregated is Ferguson?  And changes in Ferguson poverty rates.

7. Some new results on whether having a daughter shifts a person’s political orientation.  And free to choose (the culture that is India)?

Peter Schaeffer August 18, 2014 at 1:17 pm

“Did capital controls help during the Great Depression?”

The paper actually addresses a significantly different question and produces a quite interesting answer.

“As Figure 1 suggests, capital controls achieved the short-run policy objective of stemming capital outflows as gold cover ratios stabilised in the months following their imposition. We then show that capital controls did not accelerate recovery from the Great Depression relative to countries that went off gold and floated.”

The conclusion appears to be that going off gold was more effective than capital controls. That makes sense, and fits with a vast amount of research showing the links between the gold standard and the Great Depression. The results don’t show that exchange controls were a failure per se.

This paper has substantial implications for the Euro (Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.) but Europe won’t abandon the Euro any time soon. For better or worse, the Euro enjoys quasi-religious totemic status (as did the gold standard in a different era). It took the Great Depression to break the gold standard. Who knows what it will take to break the Euro.

A related point is that the gold standard was never as pristine as is thought these days. Tariffs and exchange controls were routinely used to maintain the notional linkage between currencies and gold. That makes the Euro more extreme than gold ever was because the EU effectively bans the mechanisms (tariffs and exchange controls) that were used to prop up gold.

Oakchair August 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Currently Europe’s economy is worse now then it was at the same time during the Great Depression. For some reason people in Europe have become more willing to accept shitty economies.

Peter Schaeffer August 20, 2014 at 2:54 pm

O,

For better of worse, the vast expansion of the welfare state provides a more than sufficient explanation. If you don’t have to work to eat, then not working isn’t so bad.

Another influence is the decline of ideology. In the 1933, many viewed the Great Depression as a failure of global capitalism with Socialism / Communism / Nazism as a desirable alternative. Very few people think that way anymore. Of course, the current downturn is seen as something closer to an earthquake. Just an unpredictable event that can’t really be blamed on anyone.

dave smith August 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Re: 7. So a paper with a null finding gets some exposure? Good. We might have less fraudulent research if null findings had some more credibility.

John August 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Re Item 4

1. I suspect all the ETL people who read this might feel a bit insulted by the lable “Janitor”

2. I wonder if one mght not also draw a paralell to the real world janitors. I wonder just what the marginal product of these inputs to our very complex modern production process might be? I know I would be much less productive if I worked in a setting where the restrooms were dirty and smelly, the halls dirty and the carpets never/seldom vacummed.

Doug August 19, 2014 at 2:18 am

Got to love how the article makes it seem like a new problem, and that we are lucky there are heroic start-ups coming to save us. News to those of us who have been trying to sort out data architectures/ pipelines/ supply chains for years, and using well established software products like Informatica or Talend for example.

Ray Lopez lol at item number four August 19, 2014 at 5:51 am

LOL gimme a break. This is a job crying out for outsourcing to India or the Philippines. What a joke these so-called Big Data people are. RL
Yet far too much handcrafted work — what data scientists call “data wrangling,” “data munging” and “data janitor work” — is still required. Data scientists, according to interviews and expert estimates, spend from 50 percent to 80 percent of their time mired in this more mundane labor of collecting and preparing unruly digital data, before it can be explored for useful nuggets.

“Data wrangling is a huge — and surprisingly so — part of the job,” said Monica Rogati, vice president for data science at Jawbone, whose sensor-filled wristband and software track activity, sleep and food consumption, and suggest dietary and health tips based on the numbers. “It’s something that is not appreciated by data civilians. At times, it feels like everything we do.”

zbicyclist August 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

“spend from 50 percent to 80 percent of their time mired in this more mundane labor”

That statement could have been made at any time in the last 50 years.

It’s a continual arms race between tools (which basically work best on the problems they were designed to deal with — the ones that were cutting edge yesterday) and the expansion of data and the desire to find out new things with it (new things that the old tools weren’t designed for).

And does anybody really call it ‘janitor work’ instead of ‘shit work’?

David Zetland August 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm

…and then there’s that tricky task of “interpretation,” for which we have thousands of econometric examples of how to get it wrong.

Alexei Sadeski August 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm

7b – How is that “sexist”? The man didn’t choose his wife either.

Sigivald August 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm

5) No, will be by the end of the year, in theory.

And doesn’t matter as much since it apparently won’t be free.

(I don’t blame Harvard, of course, but it’s a lot less interesting if you have to pay for access.)

Slocum August 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm

#4. I’m reminded of this ‘RibbonFarm’ entry (which I believe MR linked some time back):

Machines as Children, Humans as Intestinal Fauna

First, machines are like children. The opposite of the overlord personification we’ve been encouraged to adopt by science fiction. Like parents, we have to let them have the fun while we child-proof the environment (sanitize their inputs) and clean up after them (do whatever they are too clumsy to do and clean up any messes they create).
….
The data refining example illustrates the second analogy: without intestinal fauna, humans and other animals could not digest many nutrients. Even dish-washing is hard for machines, so we have to pre-clean to some extent before loading dishwashers. Without humans inhabiting their guts, technological systems cannot process much of the arbitrariness of the world

http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2013/07/10/you-are-not-an-artisan/

uli_hardenberg August 18, 2014 at 5:49 pm

#4: from my perspective (experimental physics) these janitorial duties are actually the bulk of the “science” in data science. Careful controls over the conditions under which data is collected are what allows strong and reliable conclusions to be made. Sorry trendy data scientists, real science is hard work. Just storing years of transaction histories or webserver logs doesn’t necessarily cut it. You have to do the hard work to put in place carefully controls or even *gasp* manually take data. It’s even more annoying when we see “data scientists” posting articles in major newspapers using results from google web search volume or self-selected opinion polls…

The one case where having *big* data seems to be undoubtedly useful is if you want to form conclusions about extremely rare events. In this case, small data sets don’t have any examples of rare events. This is a common pattern in linguistics where rare words and phrases are extremely common.

Mesa August 19, 2014 at 4:35 am

Righto. And in economics and social studies what we see are people using whatever easy to access data they can find (Fred, whatever federal agency, CPI, GDP, etc) to do lots of bogus studies / modelling. Many times the underlying conditions under which the data is collected, or what the data means are blown off completely because well, this data is easy to get! No argument that really valuable data is generally hard to get and expensive to get, but using data that doesn’t mean anything is not a solution to that problem. What these guys are calling the data collection and wrangling is really the task that takes skill, the rest is mostly pre-canned packages and cool graphs, with admittedly some experience needed to use them correctly.

Zach August 18, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Yeah, having all the data right in front of you, checked for accuracy, in a format that is easy to work with, and able to be processed using known algorithms seems like the exact opposite of science. Or maybe the very tail end of it.

For any activity that can be partially automated, you’re going to be spending the bulk of your time on the parts that aren’t easy to automate.

Anon August 18, 2014 at 11:33 pm

7b. “Several have also questioned the veracity of the ad since no one has been able to identify the jewellery brand .”

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-how-a-jewellery-ad-sparked-debates-on-misogyny-2011723

freethinker August 19, 2014 at 10:31 pm

7 : Even today in India most girls prefer an arranged marriage, although among the more urbanized people the girl does get to talk to the boy before they are engaged. So there is nothing “sexist” about the ad: it reflects “the culture that is India”

freethinker August 19, 2014 at 10:40 pm

5 About the Loeb classical library: other than Tyler ( and perhaps Deirdre McCloskey and Arjo Klamer) I wonder how many economists would care if it is online or not

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Steve September 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

There is an ongoing argument promulgated by the ruling class that capital controls benefit economies by making them more stable. That is a false argument because capital controls are not imposed to benefit the economies. Instead, they are imposed to benefit government officials and bureaucrats.

The present situation is a perfect case in point. If their assets and liabilities are marked to market, virtually all Western democracies and their Central Banks are bankrupt . This global financial crisis did not develop because capitalism went awry, because capital controls were absent, or because economies were “unstable.” Rather, it developed as the result of decades of mismanagement by irresponsible politicians and bankers. The reason that capital controls are suddenly in vogue again is simply that they provide the only mechanism by which the same bureaucrats who created the problems can bail themselves out, i.e. by stealing private capital.

The elitist ruling class would do well to remember Jefferson’s rejoinder more than 200 years ago that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and not the other way around.

Read more at: http://www.surviveandprosper.org/government_is_coming.html

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