Tyler Cowen

Psychology journal bans significance testing

by on February 26, 2015 at 7:43 am in Science | Permalink

This is perhaps the first real crack in the wall for the almost-universal use of the null hypothesis significance testing procedure (NHSTP). The journal, Basic and Applied Social Psychology (BASP), has banned the use of NHSTP and related statistical procedures from their journal. They previously had stated that use of these statistical methods was no longer required but can be optional included. Now they have proceeded to a full ban.

The type of analysis being banned is often called a frequentist analysis, and we have been highly critical in the pages of SBM of overreliance on such methods. This is the iconic p-value where <0.05 is generally considered to be statistically significant.

There is more here, with further interesting points in the piece, via Mark Thorson.

I’ve been receiving numerous requests for more of my “totally conventional views,” and someone asked me about HRC.  We’ve never covered her in the past, so why not?  But by construction of this series, none of what follows is at all new and probably there won’t be any discussion in the comments.  But with that in mind, I’ll offer up these points:


1. Women are judged far more by their looks than are men, and Hillary’s are not right for the presidency.  She doesn’t seem composed enough, schoolmarmish enough a’ la Thatcher, and frankly many men, when they see her in their mind’s eye, imagine a voice saying “Look here, buster…!”  Her hair is not properly ordered for the Executive Office, and I suspect many Americans want for their first female President to appear somewhat ageless.  I am not suggesting any of this is fair or even an efficient form of Bayesian statistical discrimination, but it is a reality.

2. If not for factor #1, a healthy Hillary would be a shoo-in for demographic reasons, but as it stands her chances of winning are overrated.

3. A Clinton Presidency is the most likely of any, from the major candidates, to serve up significant and enduring market-oriented reforms.  She could bring along enough Democrats to work with the Republicans, and reclaim a version of the old Clinton legacy.  That said, her presidency also is more likely to effect change in the opposite direction as well, so the net expected value here is hard to calculate and still may be negative.

4. Given #1 and #2, and other gender-related factors, your opinion about Hillary, no matter what it may be, is less reliable than you think.  That suggests you should think about her less rather than more (sorry people for this post, what did Wittgenstein say about that ladder?), because I don’t think you’re going to see much of a payoff from grabbing here at that third derivative.

5. The willingness of the Clinton Foundation to solicit donations from foreign governments and leaders is corrupt, and yet mostly receives a free pass, in spite of some recent coverage on corporate donations.  I read recently they might stop soliciting donations “…if Hillary runs for President,” also known as “hurry up and give now!”  Arguably we would be electing a political machine as President of the United States, even more than usual.

6. Democratic intellectuals and operatives are quite unexcited — or should I say “fervently and passionately unexcited” — about the prospect of a Hillary candidacy.  The energy is already drained from the room, and they haven’t opened the door yet.

7. There is still the question of how the press, and the American people, might process any subsequent revelations about Bill’s “activities” since leaving the White House.

8. It will be hard to avoid giving the public “Hillary fatigue,” given how many years she has been in the public eye.  This is another reason why I think her chances are overrated, plus she will have to be very careful to carry herself in the debates just the right way, see #1 and #2 again.

9. It is easier to transcend race than gender.

The wisdom that is Japanese

by on February 25, 2015 at 2:27 pm in Education, Religion | Permalink

Funerals are being held for ROBOTIC dogs in Japan because owners believe they have souls…

It is a funeral like any other in Japan. Except that those being honoured are robot dogs, lined up on the altar, each wearing a tag to show where they came from and which family they belonged to.

The devices are ‘AIBOs’, the world’s first home-use entertainment robot equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and capable of developing its own personality.

And don’t forget this:

The only source of genuine parts are ‘dead’ robots, who become donors for organ transplantation, but only once the proper respects have been paid.

There is more here, with video, via Claire Hill.

I was supposed to write about America for an American newspaper, and the last thing I wanted was to seem like an introverted European complaining about how awful everything was here.

Here is another bit:

Cleveland meant nothing to me.

There is more here, via Michael Rosenwald.

Assorted links

by on February 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Measuring the quality of NBA defenders.  And digitalizing NFL players.  Both are interesting pieces.  And don’t ridicule Manny Pacquiao.

2. An interview with a guy.

3. Vermont, Gruber.

4. Paul Krugman on superstars and the economics of music.  I think of the era of the music superstar as having peaked in the 1980s or so.

5. Old photos of old economists, lots of them.  And the story behind the sale of the Kuznets medal.

6. Peter Railton on depression.

7. Tarkovsky films now free on line.

China pigeon markets in everything

by on February 25, 2015 at 9:21 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

This is also not new news, but it is new to me:

In May 2013, Chinese businessman Gao Fuxin set a new record, paying 310,000 euros ($351,000) in an online auction for a pigeon named Bolt, after Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

It seems also that the pigeons, before a race, are given performance-enhancing drugs.  But:

Expensive birds such as Bolt are simply too valuable to race. They’re put out to stud after being auctioned. “In pigeon racing, blood is everything,” says Mike Ganus, a breeder and racer in Granger, Indiana, who sells about 500 birds a year to China. “If you don’t have the genetics, you won’t have a winner, no matter what you do.”

The full story is here.

Most days on MR we try to bring you something new, whether it be a report or an opinion of ours.  Even if it is not truly new, perhaps it is at least new relative to the discourse on most other web sites.  We are reluctant to recycle old posts, even though I am still thinking about whether a lot of food tastes better when you eat it with your fingers.

But maybe telling you something conventional can be new in a way too.  So here are a few totally conventional views which I hold, or still hold, but otherwise don’t bother reporting very often if at all:

1. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are the most likely candidates to win the GOP nomination.

2. The GOP won’t try to repeal Obamacare, see #Syriza.

2b. Obamacare hasn’t made us healthier (yet?), but it has served as an inefficient form of wealth insurance for some lower-income groups.  On net, the negative health consequences of the disemployment effects of the law could easily counterbalance the direct positive health care access effects.  Imagine that, a health care reform that doesn’t even boost health.  Given their utility functions, many of the law’s backers should be happy with it, but they shouldn’t think I am impressed with their numerous “victory lap” blog posts.  Here is my 2009 post on what we should have done instead.  I still think that, noting that I remain happy with the cost control parts of what was done.

3. The Supreme Court will rule against the current version of Obamacare and send the matter back to Congress.  Confusion will result.

4. During the upward phase of the recovery, monetary policy just doesn’t matter that much.

5. We are still in the great stagnation, for the most part.  But with nominal gdp well, well above its pre-crash peak, it is not demand-based “secular stagnation.”  It just isn’t, I don’t know how else to put it.  And the liquidity trap is still irrelevant and has been since about 2009.

6. There is modest good news on the wage front, but so far it doesn’t amount to a fundamental shift in regime.  Following the monthly squiggles doesn’t tell us much.  And since wage trouble dates from 1999 and arguably earlier, I don’t attribute much of it to debt overhang from the recession.

7. Edward Snowden is both a hero and a traitor.

8. Syriza still has to try to make a Greek economy work with roughly the same means their predecessors had.  I don’t think they can do it, and I am sticking with my recent Grexit prediction, which by the way had an 18-month time horizon on it (see my earlier Twitter response to Felix Salmon).

9. No one knows what to do about ISIS or Putin.  The latter is a bigger danger than the former.  Confusion will result.

If you’re not excited, fine, that’s the point.  The predictable is a kind of news, too.  But hold on and come back, because tomorrow you might just hear more about remote-controlled, cyber cockroaches.

Arrived in my pile

by on February 24, 2015 at 2:05 pm in Books | Permalink

Melissa Lane, The Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter.

Melanie Swan, Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy.  This appears to be a very clear and useful treatment of the idea of a blockchain, including Ethereum and even futarchy.

Oxford Companion to the Economics of China, edited by Shenggen Fan, Ravi Kanbur, Shang-Jin Wei, and Xiaobo Zhang.

Robert Alter, a translation with commentary, Strong as Death is Love, including The Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, Daniel.  I haven’t read this one yet, but Alter’s biblical works are among the greatest scholarly creations of our time.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes:

The big problem is profitability. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time, a week or at most a few months. So profits have to be made on brief usage. Furthermore, any new antibiotics that might be developed to fight these drug-resistant bacteria are likely to be used very sparingly under highly controlled circumstances, to slow the development of resistant bacteria and extend their usefulness. This also limits the amount that can be sold.

Assorted links

by on February 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. State governments are pre-empting local government interventions.

2. There is no great snowplow stagnation!

3. Did intervention in Libya just make everything worse?

4. The Great Reset, in a single picture.

5. Critics of Greek austerity are basically asking for a free lunch.  You never hear them compare more aid to Greece to more aid for a developing nation, for instance.  And 7-11 charcuterie.

6. David Brooks reviews Hamilton, the musical.

What if you could text a number and get anything you want?

That’s the ambitious goal of a new startup called Magic, a text-messaging-based concierge service that promises to pull strings, place orders, and schedule deliveries all so you don’t have to.

Magic doesn’t have a dedicated app. It instead exists as a phone number nestled inside your contact list, acting as your go-to “guy” for anything (legal) you may need.

It’s only available in the US for now, and you can sign up by texting 408-217-1721.

I wonder if they will end up using the MR search function.  The story is here, via the excellent Samir Varma and Brent Depperschmidt.

Here is evidence for the Roberts Higgs thesis and, if I recall correctly, some recent remarks by Thomas Piketty on revolution and tax progressivity (does anyone know the link?).  Juliana Londoño Vélez writes:

Abstract    I argue that progressive income taxation in the twentieth century is a product of the exigency of war and not of democracy. I obtain long-run series of the top marginal personal income tax rate for a large sample of OECD countries, and use data on wars of mass mobilization and democracy from the Correlates of War data set and Scheve & Stasavage (2012) to test this hypothesis. My results suggest that wars of mass mobilization (i.e. wars in which more than 2% of the population served in the military) cause substantial increases in tax progressivity. These effects are persistent and do not vanish upon the conclusion of war.

The full paper is here (pdf), taken from the generally interesting Berkeley Economic History Lab list, as cited by Barry Eichengreen.  As Barry notes, see also the revised and much improved version of Lemin Wu’s paper on the Malthusian trap (pdf).

I have not read their new paper, but here it is (pdf), along with the abstract:

This paper takes a retrospective look at the U.S. government’s effort to rescue and restructure General Motors and Chrysler in the midst of the 2009 economic and financial crisis. The paper describes how two of the largest industrial companies in the world came to seek a bailout from the U.S. government, the analysis used to evaluate their request, and the steps taken by the government to rescue them. The paper also summarizes the performance of the U.S. auto industry since the bailout and draws some general lessons from the episode.
This is in any case a topic worthy of study.

Also, unlike Silicon Valley, the Stasi was regulated.

That is from Bryan Appleyard.

The self-assembling chair

by on February 23, 2015 at 11:55 am in Science, Web/Tech | Permalink

There are few tasks more infuriating than assembling a piece of furniture. But a new project at MIT may eventually eliminate that pesky life chore entirely.

As Wired’s Liz Stinson reports, the loopy geniuses over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Self-Assembly Lab recently debuted a chair designed to put itself together, without the need for a single vaguely illustrated instruction manual.

There is also a good video at the link, courtesy of the excellent Samir Varma, a loyal MR reader.  I sometimes toy with the proposition that there is in fact nothing I can assemble, not even simple items.  My requested birthday gift this year was that Yana show me how to put together and operate that which I got for Christmas.