Wednesday assorted links

by on December 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Hadur December 2, 2015 at 12:45 pm

What self-respecting rebel group is going to cease their activities because the economy will suffer during the transition from the current government’s rule to their rule? Almost any time the government is violently overthrown, the economy suffers at least for a bit. Rebel groups take a longer-term view, where the economic disruption up front is balanced out by the longer-term benefits of them being in power, either the quantifiable benefits of superior policies they plan to implement or the non-quantifiable benefits of regime change, such as the satisfaction that comes with self-determination.

There are many cases where an oppressive government has been overthrown, and the people are arguably worse off for it as measured by objective factors. In most cases, people are not interested in bringing back the oppressor, because at least now the people mismanaging their state are democratically elected, or of the same nationality as them, etc., and that has a value. But of course, this is a blog where Tyler routinely lectures Catalan separatists to give up their efforts because of economics.

2 dan1111 December 3, 2015 at 1:58 am

Tyler opposes Catalonian and Scottish independence because Spain and the UK are not the Evil Empire. Normal policitical disagreements within relatively healthy representative government are being used as the basis for realigning nation-states.

Of course there are groups of die hard separatists who want independence no matter what in both cases, but both of these movements have broader traction for shortsighted political and economic reasons. The economic effect of independence is a big part of both debates, because supporters for these reasons aren’t willing to bear a major economic cost if that is the price of independence. This isn’t something that is being interjected into the debate by Tyler; the assumption that a major economic cost of independence would be a decisive argument against is already there.

3 Nat Rosen December 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm

4 and 5 are surprisingly related. Trivers is both brilliant and bipolar.

Excellent list.

4 So Much For Subtlety December 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Trivers may be brilliant and bipolar, but can you make a film from his life? No doubt the Black Panther thing will go down well in Hollywood. In the rest of the world? Among paying customers? Well, I am pretty sure they won’t include the torture and murdering parts of that story.

The problem is that Trivers has a thing for foreign Black women. Which is all empowering and good I am sure. They need to reduce that to one. And have her played by someone credible. However how is this going to go over with the Social Justice crowd? They would not like a White male fixated on Asian women. They will have to think very carefully how to spin that.

It is much more socially acceptable to be in a mixed-race relationship these days. The media seems determined to sell it to us at every opportunity. It would just be so amusing to see protests at showing it coming from the Left and not the right.

5 Floccina December 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

#3 iatrogenic death!
Call Robin Hanson!
Shorter but less painful lives? What to do? Would legalizing pot help or hurt?

6 Dan Weber December 2, 2015 at 1:14 pm

I came here just for the urination link but it was broken because of an extra space.


7 Dylan December 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm

I believe this is the third time Tyler has posted a link to some municipality putting up urine repellent paint.

8 Jeff December 2, 2015 at 1:15 pm

The paper for #1 has a significant problem – the author necessarily makes many assumptions to arrive at his conclusions but repeatedly expresses his amounts to three significant digits. This invention of precision that does not exist invalidates this paper as a serious proposal to build a third Death Star, should one be required.

9 dan1111 December 3, 2015 at 2:07 am

Heh. You had me going there for a minute.

10 Mitch Berkson December 2, 2015 at 1:35 pm

So German floor pee-ers should anticipate a swelling of their ranks?

11 Tim December 2, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I’m honestly curious how people interpret the signal sent out by the death star paper. If it had been written by a grad student my reaction would have been: this person has way too much time on their hands.

It’s apparently by a tenured professor, and I find that my reaction is still the same.

Maybe I’m overestimating how long it took to write it but there sure are nice graphs and everything.

12 Kevin December 2, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Tells me that most of econ is playing pretend all of the time.

13 Lord Action December 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I suspect you’re overestimating how long it took to write this.

14 So Much For Subtlety December 2, 2015 at 6:38 pm

It is probably not a bad move. It certainly worked for Paul Krugman’s Interstellar trade article. I would guess it signals two very different things to two very different markets.

1. To the world’s geeks it signals you are a hard core member of the tribe. As these nerds will make up most academic hiring committees and the people who hand out of Nobel Prizes, that is a good thing,

2. To the rest, especially those people with social skills who did Liberal Arts degrees, it will, at first, signal you are odd and not dateable. But it will also signal that you can turn out lengthy pieces of garbage on topics no one they know would be remotely interested in. Given those people make up the editorial staff at the New York Times, that makes you perfect for their editorial pages.

So it really did work for him.

15 dan1111 December 3, 2015 at 2:06 am

You seem to be assuming this paper was produced as an alternative to real work, but I find it more likely that this is an alternative hobby. This implies great dedication to the field rather than laziness: author enjoys his research so much that after he does his serious work, he goes home and writes another paper in his spare time.

A visit to the author’s page seems to confirm this: he lists seven publications, six of them first-author, this year:

16 EH December 2, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Anything from the Hoover Institution’s pretty worthwhile. The bipolar link is surprising.

17 Doug December 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm

I think academia is comparatively more rewarding to “lumpy” workers than corporate workplaces. Most regular jobs would find it unacceptable for an employee to do no work for three weeks, then go through a burst of productivity. But that model basically describes how grad students write their thesis. It also describes how a manic-depressive operates.

18 Effem December 2, 2015 at 2:20 pm

I can’t take any inequality work seriously which focuses on income inequality. There is a world of difference between the retired guy with $10m in the bank who generates $300k of investment income and the new doctor who earns $300k with $500k in med school debt. And yet so much policy work wants to treat them the same.

19 Gochujang December 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm

I agree and put it down to simple laziness. Income is the number we have, so ..

20 Thomas December 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

It’s not about laziness, it’s about 1. the lack of concern for wealth inequality among the economically, socially, and culturally ultra-rich who push the inequality debate, and 2. the lack of taste for nuanced thought among the consumers of inequality marketing. Do you really think a Kennedy, or a Clinton, or a thought-leader (who works 10 hours per week, lives in NYC, earns 300-500k per year + millions more in untaxed benefits and gifts, and enjoys substantial influence) really wants to talk about full-equality? God no – the coasts would have to redistribute to the low-culture, low-status, low-influence flyover states to an unbelievable degree. Why shouldn’t Des Moines has as much media as NYC?

21 Gochujang December 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Is there any solid time series on individual wealth?

What I am saying is, if there is no wealth data, people will use income because it is there, as a side effect of income based tax collection.

22 dan1111 December 3, 2015 at 2:12 am

“the lack of concern for wealth inequality among the economically, socially, and culturally ultra-rich who push the inequality debate”

I don’t think this is true. Look at how everyone in this debate latched on to Piketty’s work.

It is probably true that wealthy people pushing the inequality debate would not want to bear all of the consequences in practices. This is human nature. But if that were driving the debate, then we wouldn’t be talking about inequality at all.

I agree with others that measurability bias is a big part of what’s going on here.

23 Doug December 2, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Why not just directly measure consumption proxies of living standards: square feet of living space, kWh of electricity consumed, pounds of meat eaten a year, miles of leisure jet travel, MRI’s per lifetime, autos per household, average age of home electronics, hours of live entertainment consumed, number of meals eaten at restaurant, etc. I’m almost positive that any sensible metric would have far lower gini coefficient than either nominal income or wealth. Which suggests that we’re massively overestimating inequality.

24 Gochujang December 2, 2015 at 9:03 pm

The credit card companies might have some interesting data. Do they share it?

25 Gochujang December 2, 2015 at 9:07 pm

It is hard to develop a national data series that does not have selection bias. That is data, that is partial in some way, the data you could find, missing the data to make it complete.

26 Alain December 2, 2015 at 4:49 pm

I agree they are completely different. The guy making 300k with 500k in student debt is much richer.

It is likely he just recently got out of school. His earnings will rise over the next 35 years, given decent market returns over that time he will almost certainly have more than 10m in assets.

27 Gochujang December 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Cute. But knowing his wealth at 25 and at 52 you’d know, and would not need to guess.

We want to talk about rich and poor, but I believe the only data we have on wealth comes from the census, infrequently self-empowered.

28 Gochujang December 2, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Ha-ha, my tab turned self-reported to self-empowered.

29 Effem December 8, 2015 at 10:59 am

What if the new doctor is the same age?

30 Doug December 2, 2015 at 2:59 pm


A cursory analysis of opiate deaths would suggest a simple hypothesis. In the 21st century doctors liberalized their use of opiates to treat pain, it subsequently resulted in significantly higher addiction and overdose rates. But that thesis doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Yes opiates are used at higher rates today than 1995, but they’re used at significantly lower rates than 1895. Despite much more primitive trauma care, fatal opiate overdoses were virtually unknown in the Victorian era. As for the addiction claim, decades of study reveal that less than 2% of those medical opiate users become classical addicts. Deep diving into the actual data, it becomes apparent that rising opiate fatalities in the 21st century are confined to poly-drug fatalities involving opiates:

“In 2011, 5,188 opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths also involved benzodiazepines (sedatives used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures), up from 527 such deaths in 1999 (Figure 3). From 2006 through 2011, the number of opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths involving benzodiazepines increased 14% on average each year, while the number of opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths not involving benzodiazepines did not change significantly.” –

Opiates alone are fairly safe drugs. The effective dose of heroin as a percentage of lethal dose is approximately the same as alcohol. But unlike alcohol, increased tolerance to the intoxicating effects also results in increased tolerance to the suppression of lung function. Also unlike alcohol, even the most severe forms of opiate withdrawal does not endanger the user’s physical health or pose a risk of death. The most dangerous drug combinations by far are combining two or more depressants, which poses a much higher risk than any single depressant alone. This explains why opiate overdoses are much more prevalent today than in the Victorian era: benzodiazepams were not marketed until the 1950s.

The modern opiate problem is best understood as a benzo problem in reality (and to a lesser extend antidepressant SSRI). Benzos will never grab headlines like opiates, because benzo-only fatal overdoses are virtually impossible. Their real danger comes in significantly potentiating other depressants (including alcohol). This is speculative, but here’s what I think is driving the death rate: rising sleep disruption due to pervasive electronics. The typical person today is exposed to significantly more bright blue light sources late at night than they were in 1999. The secondary change is probably rising prescription amphetamine use. People hopped up on stimulants all-day are likely to need sedatives to fall asleep. (The military calls them “go-pills” and “no-go-pills”). The primary medical purpose of benzos is to treat insomnia. While opiate prescriptions have risen, pharmaceutical sleeping aid prescriptions have risen at an even faster rate following the adoption of smartphones and LED TVs.

As for white middle-aged women, they occupy the sweet demographic spot of having both high opiate and benzo use. Older folks use benzos at higher rates, but opiates at lower rates. Vice versa for younger people. Women are 66% more likely than men to use prescription sleep aids. Whites are twice as likely as blacks or hispanics to do so.

Opiates are being unfairly demonized in the current debate. Their ability to relieve pain with minimum risk is one of the few true miracles of modern medicine. The post-Reagen “Just Say No” culture of the 80s and 90s resulted in millions being unnecessarily forced to live in severe and chronic pain. The pushback of the medical community to liberalize usage was right and justified. Neo-puritans will jump at any chance to implicate opiates, because of its association with the demon-drug heroin. (Another unfair characterization, heroin is an effective and safe analgesic with unique properties that should be just as medically available as morphine or oxycodone). If anything more modern pharmaceuticals bear an unrecognized majority of the contribution to the recently rising drug fatality rates.

31 Rob December 2, 2015 at 5:39 pm

I’m curious how common opium deaths were when it was an ‘epidemic’ in China. A user is much less likely to overdose from opioids when smoked, because the effect is instantaneous and gradual. When opiates were widely used 100 years ago in the USA, was it not all liquid morphine? Which would make dosing very straightforward. But today, lots of opiate users really have no clue what they’re doing. There are so many different opioids in pill form with widely varying dosages. Much easier to accidentally take too much.

And yes the combination drug use today is a huge problem… using alcohol and/or benzos with opiates. But there are huge numbers of overdoses that involve opiates alone.

Heroin is obviously much more difficult if not impossible to dose accurately when compared to pills. Heroin use is increasing by a huge amount, as pills are more tightly controlled. Fentanyl analogues are becoming increasingly common and mixed in to bags of heroin at highly varying potencies. Fentanyl analogues are very difficult if not impossible to uniformly mix in a powder, and dealers obviously don’t use the best skills or equipment to mix fentanyl. So a user buys a bag of “heroin”, but it might not even contain heroin, or contains some fentanyl analogue added to the heroin. They snort or shoot up their usual amount and die because it was possibly +10x more potent than what they expected. But heroin itself can have highly varying potencies on the street so if a user is used to 20% pure heroin and one day buys 80% pure, they can easily overdose. Or they simply are having a relapse, and try shooting up their previous “usual” amount but overdose because their tolerance is far lower than it used to be.

32 Rob December 2, 2015 at 5:46 pm

So I guess if I have any solution…. one of the things to do would be to drastically expand education and possession of naloxone. Not just users but anyone with friends, family, or roommates who *might* be illicitly using opioids should have naloxone and know how to use it. It is saving countless lives. Also, safe injection sites. Let users shoot up with provided clean syringes and equipment at a staffed location where staff can respond to any overdoses. Heroin maintenance is very (cost) effective as well. It just doesn’t make practical sense to have addicts buying street dope when we could give them properly dosed, clean pharmaceutical grade heroin. Particularly for chronic users who have not had success with methadone or suboxone therapy. Programs in Europe have had amazing success with this.

33 Doug December 2, 2015 at 7:01 pm

I pretty much agree with 100% of what you’re saying. Particularly naloxone, which should be widely, freely and anonymously distributed without stigma. Much the same way that modern, enlightened society treats condom distribution.

Just wanted to add a few things. Based on an analysis of national death certificates 75% of prescription opiod deaths 65% of heroin deaths involve polydrug interactions. And there’s fairly good state-level variational data that demonstrates significant underreporting by coroners. And that’s not even counting polydrug impurities in street heroin itself. There’s also controlled studies showing that those co-prescribed opiates and benzos are two hundred percent or more likely to die from drug abuse. I think its fair to say that the sizable majority of opiate deaths are polydrug deaths. Even the common terminology of “opiate overdose” is heavily misleading. A heroin+benzo death is no more an overdose than a drunk driving fatality. Its simply a dangerous combination of two relatively safe activities.

Simple, unstigmatized, and unlimited access to pure heroin and needles would almost assuredly do a lot to relieve this issue. Although some polydrug abusers combine benzos with opiods for its qualitative effects, most are simply using benzos to potentiate weak opiates, either due to low-grade street heroin or a medical system that refuses to increase a patients prescribed dose with their tolerance. The one bright spot that marijuana legalization can only help the situation. Marijuana offers much of the same potentiation effect as benzos at least for a minority of users, without posing the same polydrug risks.

34 Keith December 2, 2015 at 9:18 pm

You make a lot of points but I don’t quite understand your thesis. Yes, each drug alone might have beneficial effects but ‘neo-puritans’ are right to say that powerful drugs will cause problems. After reading your comment, I come to the conclusion that the neo-puritans did a good job predicting the future.

I was young in the 80’s but wasn’t ‘just say no’ about politicians telling people to use common sense so the government didn’t have to get involved? This advice was subsequently ignored by the populace.

35 Doug December 2, 2015 at 11:36 pm

The basis of puritanical culture is that the seeking of hedonic pleasure, or even relief of suffering, is the root of sin. Eventually all sinners are punished for the loss of virtue. The very purpose of intoxicants is to directly alter one’s mood. Distinguishing between responsible and reckless drug use is largely pointless, the act itself is fundamentally tainted. Abandon all hope ye who enter. Obviously almost everyone’s beliefs are more nuanced than this, but its basically the polar center that our culture’s discussion of these issues gravitates towards. Compare how society handles risky drug abuse to risky scuba diving. Lots of people die engaging in risky drug taking activities, so “just say no” to any and all drug use regardless of precautions of safety. Lots of people die engaging in risky technical dives. NAUI’s response is to carefully examine the factors affecting the safety tradeoffs of the decisions and parameters of scuba diving. It educates about the level of risk depending on how a diver chooses to operate. But ultimately it lets adults be adults and make their (informed) tradeoffs.

36 RPLong December 3, 2015 at 9:56 am

Great comment. Thanks for that.

37 bob December 2, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Hysteria about how little old white ladies were addicting themselves to heroin was how the drug war got started back in the 1920s, right?

38 jack December 2, 2015 at 3:47 pm

So now the media will pick it up. Nobel prize winner says whites are committing suicide with opiods! You’ll hear blonde women on TV in that obnoxious announcer voice feeding off the hysteria. “An elderly white lady was found dead today in a middle class neighborhood in Clinton County. Investigators found a bottle a vicodin near her lifeless body.” Politicians will vow to get tough. The police will swat raid doctor’s offices, force patients in the waiting room to the lie on the ground, pointing guns and them and shooting service dogs, and will civilly forfeit all their money. And after a few years we’ll see posts here about how that war on vicodin has really got out of hand.

39 Joe b December 2, 2015 at 5:17 pm

#7. Its good when africa is starting to have 1st world problems, right?

40 December 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

For westernized countries the Gini Coeff for economic inequality is significant wrt PerCapitaJihadi
at p=0.05,

jihadi = -43.02 + 86.79 * gini

Df Sum Sq Mean Sq F value Pr(>F)

gini 1 413.37 413.37 5.0757 0.04565 *

where jihadi is the number of foreign fighters per million pop, gini the national Gini Coeff

However, many variables are not totally independent wrt other variables,
the Gini coeff is influenced by the IQGap. When both IQGap and Gini are
taken into consideration for PerCapitaJihadi, the influence of the rest
of the components of Gini coeff drops to insignificant and statistically
it can be droped from the equation,

PercapitaJihadi = -28.217 -2.085*iqgap +41.586*gini

Df Sum Sq Mean Sq F value Pr(>F)

iqgap 1 723.30 723.30 14.1128 0.003742 **

gini 1 73.42 73.42 1.4325 0.258957

where iqgap is the diff btw that of 2ndgenimm and the national average

41 Ray Lopez December 2, 2015 at 9:36 pm

@5 – nothing surprising about the bipolar link, see below. All it says is nut jobs are more ‘persistent’ than normal people. Hence meth addicts are used to reconstruct confidential paper such as containing credit card information, and they do a good job piecing together the shredded paper to obtain the information. -RL

Conclusions Although BD-I patients had a lower IQ than controls, they were more likely to have completed the highest level of education.

42 Nathan W December 2, 2015 at 11:10 pm

5) I wonder it the low IQ test scores are because the group doesn`t care about a test that has nothing to do with anything important.

43 E~H December 2, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Except education, obesity, general health, income, probability of getting arrested, probability of getting hired, occupation, and civility. Life is in large part an IQ test.

44 Florian von Schack December 3, 2015 at 5:21 am

No, the same underlying trait influences both IQ scores and life achievement; there is no causal link.

Vide: I could go to a Mensa test tomorrow and bomb the test, scoring in the functionally retarded range. It wouldn’t mean a thing though.

Test scores are motivation x ability. Even if ability (latent) is high, if there is no motivation to perform on the test, the score will not be a central estimator of ability.

45 Nick_L December 2, 2015 at 11:42 pm

#1 What author would dare to write a paper on the Galactic economy, and yet fail to reference Krugman’s paper on Interstellar trade? Surely, such efforts such as these are not to be taken seriously? Perhaps the author also needs to take into account the fact that in a certain galaxy (far, far away), it’s well known that the Money Velocity exceeds that of light speed?

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