Tyler Cowen

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a plan to ditch the country’s all-private health insurance system and create a state-run scheme, exit polls showed.

Some 64 percent of the electorate shot down a plan pushed by left-leaning parties who say the current system is busting the budgets of ordinary residents, figures from polling agency gfs.bern showed.

Going public would have been a seismic shift for a country whose health system is often hailed abroad as a model of efficiency, but is a growing source of frustration at home because of soaring costs.

“Over the past 20 years in Switzerland, health costs have grown 80 percent and insurance premiums 125 percent,” ophthalmologist Michel Matter told AFP.

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Samir Varma.

HongKongshare

That is from Ian Bremmer on Twitter.

The game-theoretic dynamic of such situations is of course not always a happy one.  Pro-semi-autonomy views in Hong Kong feel desperate and are losing leverage.  China feels it can play tough, because it sees it is gaining influence.  And the equilibrium is…?

Chores down, child care up

by on September 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm in Data Source, Economics, Web/Tech | Permalink

There is evidence that technology has already made household chores much less time-consuming. Parents together now spend 27.6 hours a week on chores, down from 36.3 in 1965, according to data from the American Time Use Survey and Pew Research Center. Some of their new free time is being spent on their children. They spend 20.8 hours a week on child care, up from 12.7 in 1965.

That is from Claire Cain Miller, most of the piece is about the economies of paying people to ship your goods for you.

Assorted links

by on September 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A look at how Songdo is coming along.

2. Scott Sumner on a guaranteed annual income.

3. Ross Douthat on cults and secrets and innovation and Peter Thiel.

4. Will Boisvert reviews the new Naomi Klein book.

5. Sydney Push.

6. Interview with the great Lee Perry at age seventy-eight.

What it is like to be struck by lightning

by on September 28, 2014 at 7:43 am in Medicine, Science | Permalink

To some survivors, these more outlandish claims only serve to reinforce the idea that their very real issues are suspect, too. “I have met people who say they have been struck three times and say the can see the future, play the piano, fuck all night long,” says Utley. “It’s all bullshit.”

Utley’s own case is not so fortunate:

After leaving the hospital, Utley spent months relearning to swallow, move his fingers, and walk. Rehab was just the first chapter of his ordeal, however. In his previous life, Utley was a successful stockbroker who often went skiing and windsurfing. Today, at 62, he lives on disability insurance in Cape Cod. “I don’t work,” he says. “I can’t work. My memory’s fried, and I don’t have energy like I used to. I aged 30 years in a second. I walk and talk and play golf—but I still fall down. I’m in pain most of the time. I can’t walk 100 yards without stopping. I look like a drunk.”

There is much more here, by Ferris Jabr, interesting throughout, hat tip goes to Vic Sarjoo.

It seems to me that the Krugman/Summers view has three big problems:

1. The standard textbook model says demand shocks have cyclical effects, and that after wages and prices adjust the economy self-corrects back to the natural rate after a few years. Even if it takes 10 years, it would not explain the longer-term stagnation that they believe is occurring.

2. Krugman might respond to the first point by saying we should dump the new Keynesian model and go back to the old Keynesian unemployment equilibrium model. But even that won’t work, as the old Keynesian model used unemployment as the mechanism for the transmission of demand shocks to low output. If you showed Keynes the US unemployment data since 2009, with the unemployment rate dropping from 10% to 6.1%, he would have assumed that we had had fast growth. If you then told him RGDP growth had averaged just over 2%, he would have had no explanation. That’s a supply-side problem. And it’s even worse in Britain, where job growth has been stronger than in the US, and RGDP growth has been weaker. The eurozone also suffers from this problem.

The truth is that we have three problems:

1. A demand-side (unemployment) problem that was severe in 2009, and (in the US) has been gradually improving since.

2. Slow growth in the working-age population.

3. Supply-side problems ranging from increasing worker disability to slower productivity growth.

I agree completely, his post is here.  And on labor turnover, don’t forget Alex’s earlier post here.

Arrived in my pile

by on September 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm in Books, Uncategorized | Permalink

Walter Mischel, The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control.

Isabel Sawhill, Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage.

Eric Kaplan, Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation, by one of the producers of The Big Bang Theory.

It’s one thing for parents to shell out for cram schools or private tutors for their children, but parents in China’s Zhejiang province are taking it a step further. There, parents can give their own blood to earn some extra points on their child’s zhongkao, or high school entrance exam.

Four liters of donated blood will get your child one extra point; 6 liters adds two points; and 8 liters, three. One 28-year-old man on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, posted that he had surpassed the 4-liter mark, a gift to his unborn child: “[I] want to tell my future son: No worries with the high school entrance exams, Dad has already got you bonus marks!” the man said, quoted in the South China Morning Post. The policy began this July, but parents are able to take into account the blood they donated in the past. The 28-year-old had started donating when he was 18.

That is from Jeanne Kim, there is more here.

Assorted links

by on September 27, 2014 at 11:16 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Things that cost more than space exploration.

2. Tim Harford on why Parisian food is getting worse.

3. The Mercedes-Benz driverless truck.

4. Steven Pinker on why academic writing stinks.

5. Bill Gross’s Straussian take on his deceased pet cat, CAPM, the disrepair of economic models, his personal pet history, and the future of asset returns.  It is strange how they concluded from this letter that he was erratic: “I often asked her about her recommendations for pet food stocks, and she frequently responded – one meow for “no,” two meows for a “you bet.” She was less certain about interest rates, but then it never hurt to ask.”  I say he was spot on, and knew no other way of communicating the bad news.  I suppose he needed to be Straussian about his Straussianism.

Hong Kong bleg

by on September 27, 2014 at 6:38 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

You know the drill, I have been there before but not in a long time.  Your assistance is much appreciated and I thank you all in advance…

How to make beer a natural monopoly?

by on September 27, 2014 at 1:00 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

Bruges is trying something different:

The Belgian city of Bruges has approved plans to build a pipeline which will funnel beer underneath its famous cobbled streets.

Locals and politicians were fed up with huge lorries clattering through the cobbled streets and tiny canal paths of the picturesque city and decided to connect the De Halve Maan brewery to a bottling factory 3.2km (two miles) away.

It is estimated that some 500 trucks currently motor through Bruges each year on their way to the brewery, which is a famous tourist attraction.

Now they will be kept out of the city limits, as the pipe pumps 1,500 gallons of beer per hour. Construction is set to begin next year.

“The beer will take 10 to 15 minutes to reach the bottling plant,” said brewery CEO Xavier Vanneste. “By using the pipeline we will keep hundreds of lorries out of the city centre. This is unique in the brewing industry with exception of one German brewery that has installed a similar system.”

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Samir Varma.

There is a new report of interest, admittedly MIT physics-specific only:

…for the first time, researchers have carried out a detailed study that shows that these classes really can teach at least as effectively as traditional classroom courses—and they found that this is true regardless of how much preparation and knowledge students start out with.

The findings have just been published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, in a paper by David Pritchard, MIT’s Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics, along with three other researchers at MIT and one each from Harvard University and China’s Tsinghua University.

“It’s an issue that has been very controversial,” Pritchard says. “A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs, or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.”

But after thorough before-and-after testing of students taking the MITx physics class 8.MReVx (Mechanics Review) online, and similar testing of those taking the same class in its traditional form, Pritchard and his team found quite the contrary: The study showed that in the MITx course, “the amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course,” Pritchard says.

A second, more surprising finding, he says, is that those who were least prepared, as shown by their scores on pretests, “learn as well as everybody else.” That is, the amount of improvement seen “is no different for skillful people in the class”—including experienced physics teachers—”or students who were badly prepared. They all showed the same level of increase,” the study found.

For the pointer I thank Samir Varma

Friday assorted links

by on September 26, 2014 at 11:53 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Is software outpacing hardware?  A chess experiment pitting a smart phone against a desktop.

2. Guide to Aphex Twin (the new release is quite good).

3. Wimps.

4. “In Average Is Over, George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen delivers good news and bad news with nearly equal enthusiasm.” Joseph Stromberg has a good review.

5. Knausgaard bingo.

6. Two big mysteries.

China fact of the day

by on September 26, 2014 at 5:51 am in Books, Political Science | Permalink

…the size of the Chinese government and party bureaucracy is surprisingly modest…In this respect, the Chinese communist Party is similar to previous Chinese dynasties as far back as the Han, which ruled the vast Chinese empire with a modestly sized civil service.

…China has only 31 government and party employees per thousand residents.  The number of civil servants per thousand residents in France is 95, in the United States, 75, and in Germany 53.

You will note that these numbers exclude state-owned enterprises, which in China are extensive although shrinking in relative terms.

That is from the new and excellent Nicholas Lardy book Markets Over Mao: The Rise of Private Business in China.  In my view the truth lies somewhere between the arguments of Lardy and the thesis of Joe Zhang, see the first Amazon review for Zhang’s critique of Lardy, plus Zhang’s comments here.  Here is Scott Sumner criticizing Zhang.

Eliminating heterogeneity bias causes 97 percent of the variance in the price level of food products across cities to disappear relative to a conventional index. Eliminating both biases reverses the common finding that prices tend to be higher in larger cities. Instead, we find that price level for food products falls with city size.

That is part of an abstract and new paper from Jessie Handbury and David E. Weinstein, via Kevin Lewis.  They have two additional interesting papers on the cost of living here.