Tyler Cowen

From The New Left Review, Moretti and Pestre report:

Three new semantic clusters characterize the language of the Bank from the early 1990s on. The first—and most important—has to do with finance: here, alongside a few predictable adjectives (financial, fiscal, economic) and nouns (loans, investment, growth, interest, lending, debt), we find a landslide of fair value, portfolio, derivative, accrual, guarantees, losses, accounting, assets; a little further down the list, equity, hedging, liquidity, liabilities, creditworthiness, default, swaps, clients, deficit, replenishment, repurchase, cash. In terms of frequency and semantic density, this cluster can only be compared to the material infrastructures of the 1950s–60s; now, however, work in agriculture and industry has been replaced by an overwhelming predominance of financial activities.

…The second cluster has to do with management—a noun that, in absolute terms, is the second most frequent of the last decade (lower than loans, but higher than risk and investment!). In the world of ‘management’, people have goals and agendas; faced with opportunities, challenges and critical situations, they elaborate strategies. To appreciate the novelty, let’s recall that, in the 1950s–60s, issues were studied by experts who surveyed and conducted missions, published reports, assisted, advised and suggested programmes. With the advent of management, the centre of gravity shifts towards focusing, strengthening and implementing; one must monitor, control, audit, rate (Figure 2); ensure that everything is done properly while also helping people to learn from mistakes. The many tools at the manager’s disposal (indicators, instruments, knowledge, expertise, research) enhance effectiveness, efficiency, performance, competitiveness and—it goes without saying—promote innovation.

The concept of governance is another clear winner in more recent times, and furthermore the reports seem to overuse the word “and” relative to the word “the.”  That I can believe.  The article is interesting throughout, hat tip goes to Avinash Celstine.

The grand confluence of Protestantism has dwindled to a trickle over the past thirty years, and the Great Church of America has come to an end.

…The death of Mainline Protestantism is, as we’ve noted, the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other period in American history.  Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: Mainline Protestantism has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.

That is from Joseph Bottum, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.

The Tea Party, the great stagnation, etc., maybe you can find it all right here.

Don’t worry people, just joking on that one…

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a premier source of young recruits, only 9.9 percent of undergraduates went into finance in 2013, compared with the 31 percent that took jobs on Wall Street in 2006, before the financial crisis. Software companies, meanwhile, hired 28.1 percent of M.I.T. graduates in 2013, compared with 10.5 percent in 2006.

That is from Popper and Dougherty in the NYT, via Binyamin Appelbaum.

That is the new Ian Bremmer book, with the subtitle Three Choices for America’s Role in the World.  It can be Indispensable America (our postwar role), Moneyball America (pick priorities and accomplish them), or Independent America (limited foreign policy aspirations but lots of nation-building at home and trade abroad), and Ian prefers the latter — “I believe it’s time for Americans to redefine our value to the world.”  Most of all he thinks we have to choose, and articulate the reasons for our choice; right now we are left with Question Mark America, arguably the worst of all worlds.

As you would expect from a focus on foreign policy, he builds a good case for TPP, starting on p.114, from a broadly social democratic point of view, very much worth the read.

The most notable feature of this book is that Bremmer constructs the very best case for each of the foreign policy approaches, not just his favorite, and in this sense he makes the maximum effort to instruct the reader.  We could use a lot more of this approach.  He is also one of the very best people to follow on Twitter.

Assorted links

by on March 24, 2015 at 10:58 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What is the relationship between the economics blogosphere and academic economics?, Alex on Quora.

2. There is no great glue stagnation.

3. For fiscal consolidations, tax boosts hurt consumer confidence but spending cuts are more positive (pdf).

4. The Chinese cement comparison.

5. Thais pay tribute to Mexican gangs.

Will Radford and Mathias Gallé have a new and interesting paper on this topic, here is one excerpt:

Law and corporate professions had around 15% of female representation…the medical domain (doctors) had a female probability of 0.23…Religion does not score at the bottom with regards to female presentation (although very low with 0.08). From the professions we selected, Engineering was the lowest (0.05). The highest scoring profession was IT (0.52), which is partly due to the fact that many computer voices were female (computer had 460 female occurrences, versus 247 male ones; and enterprise computer from “Star Trek” was almost exclusively female)

By the way, the number of female writers and directors (in their IMDB database) was at a six year low in 2014.

If you look at most frequent roles for gender, women are assigned hostess, girl, woman, waitress, and mother.  For men, the list swings toward narrator, announcer, doctor, detective, bartender, soldier, and police officer.

In 1980-200, the top “newly popular” role (for both sexes) was “additional voices.”  For the time period 2000-present it was “zombie,” next was “housemate.”

The paper is here (pdf), hat tip goes to Samir Varma.

Here is a new and interesting article on whether there is greater female influence over cinematic box office these days.

New arguments on a carbon tax

by on March 24, 2015 at 12:34 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

From Adam Ozimek, here are some very good points, which I had not previously pondered:

…what a carbon tax does is push the required cost threshold up. This would allow solar to become the more profitable source of energy in the US sooner and increase the speed of its dominance here.

However, a carbon tax would raise the threshold in the US relative to the threshold for developing countries.  In other words, the race for solar companies in the U.S. becomes to be cheaper than dirty energy + a carbon tax, which is a higher threshold than being cheaper than dirty energy alone, which is the threshold in many developing countries.

It is easy to see how this could cause downward march in solar costs to slow, and as a result solar would reach the threshold for China, India, and other developing countries perhaps much much later.

If this is true, it would suggest that for clean energy to become globally dominant faster it’s better for the U.S. to just subsidize solar innovation and let the untaxed U.S. market price of dirty energy stand as a strong incentive for solar to drive costs lower.

To see this, consider a world where solar was already dominant in the U.S. with current technology and costs, perhaps via a total ban of dirty energy. The supply curve of the installed base of solar technology would be much more price inelastic than the supply curve of today’s installed base of dirty energy due to higher fixed costs and lower marginal costs.  This means a steeper residual demand curve for marginal innovators that provides less market share rewards for marginal declines in price, and therefore lower rewards for marginal cost cutting.

In this way, a carbon tax could make global warming worse.

From Jerry Taylor at the new Niskanan Center, here is a paper on the conservative case for a carbon tax.

When Medolac Laboratories, a competitor of Prolacta, said last year that it wanted to buy milk from women in Detroit, it was accused of profiting at the expense of black women.

“We are deeply concerned that women will be coerced into diverting milk that they would otherwise feed their own babies,” the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association wrote in an open letter in January. Medolac, which said it was working with the Clinton Foundation and wanted to encourage breast-feeding by making it financially attractive, abandoned its plan.

The article, by Andrew Pollack, is interesting throughout. And here is Wikipedia on the history of wet nurses.

For the pointer I thank Pam R.

Monday assorted links

by on March 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Interview with the NYU professor banned from UAE: “But once the decision was made and the university is up and running, the position of myself and others is that NYU has responsibilities there and one of the responsibilities is to try to generate solutions to the terrible situation that migrant workers labor under in that country. Otherwise, what are we doing there?”

2. Against trolleyism in philosophy.

3. The behavioral economics of how restaurants can try to trick you.

4. Pierre Boulez at age 90.  And the musicians on Boulez.

5. Lead prosecutor apologizes for sending man to death row.  And good vs. bad deflation.

6. Chris Rufer on corporate welfare and cronyism.

The economics of busking

by on March 23, 2015 at 3:18 am in Economics, Music | Permalink

Mark Sandusky has a good article on that topic, here is one excerpt:

Time your busks wisely! Profits can vary widely from day to day, hour to hour. Our low for a Friday night was $98 for two hours of performance. Our high for two hours of performance on a Monday afternoon was $3. This was also our low, because we never busked on another Monday afternoon. We made the most money in between 5pm and 10pm, on evenings before weekends or holidays. Our understanding is that money drops best when people are feeling tipsy, but before they’re actually drunk.

The piece serves up other points of interest.

In just about every field I looked at, having a successful parent makes you way more likely to be a big success, but the advantage is much smaller than it is at the top of politics.

Using the same methodology, I estimate that the son of an N.B.A. player has about a one in 45 chance of becoming an N.B.A. player. Since there are far more N.B.A. slots than Senate slots, this is only about an 800-fold edge.

Think about the N.B.A. further. The skills necessary to be a basketball player, especially height, are highly hereditary. But the N.B.A. is a meritocracy, with your performance easy to evaluate. If you do not play well, you will be cut, even if the team is the New York Knicks and your name is Patrick Ewing Jr. Father-son correlation in the N.B.A. is only one-eleventh as high as it is in the Senate.

Emphasis added by me.  And this:

An American male is 4,582 times more likely to become an Army general if his father was one; 1,895 times more likely to become a famous C.E.O.; 1,639 times more likely to win a Pulitzer Prize; 1,497 times more likely to win a Grammy; and 1,361 times more likely to win an Academy Award. Those are pretty decent odds, but they do not come close to the 8,500 times more likely a senator’s son is to find himself chatting with John McCain or Dianne Feinstein in the Senate cloakroom.

That is all from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

Our previous blog entries on Singapore are here, there are many dozens of them.  And yet Singapore is about the size of Fairfax County.

For the last fifty years, Singapore has been one of the truly special places in the world and a large part of that credit has to go to Lee Kuan Yew.

Here are previous MR entries on “China fact of the day.”  Again, there are many dozens, and a lot of the credit there too should go to Lee, who provided the model and inspiration for China’s reforms.

Daniel Davies reviews New Zealand.  Here is one excerpt:

The key to understanding the economy of New Zealand is that it’s an industry cluster, and the industry in question is agriculture. Or, and this might be a bit more controversial, the industry in question is agriculture marketing, the most perfect example of which being the way in which the Chinese gooseberry was renamed the “kiwifruit” and production ramped up exponentially to meet US and European demand. At some point, if they can transport them without bruising, I’d guess that they’ll have a go at doing the same thing with the Feijoa, a kind of South American guava that’s very popular domestically. Marketing isn’t looked down on as a frivolous activity for people not clever enough to do science in New Zealand, as far as I can see – farmers, if they want to enjoy middle-class incomes, have to be very aware about the difference between the stuff that comes out of the ground or off the animal, and the sort of thing that people want to see in their shops.

I liked this bit (among many others) too:

One of the things that originally got me interested in the subject of economics was asking the question “How come they’re able to send lamb and butter all the way from New Zealand and still sell it cheaper than Wales?”, and never being very satisfied with the answer.

The discussion is interesting throughout.

Sunday assorted links

by on March 22, 2015 at 12:36 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. New evidence on robots.

2. Too bad it wasn’t holy water.

3. Football player mathematician.  And more here.

4. Why trade unions are so opposed to TPP.

5. Ben Yagoda reviews Culture Crash.

6. The kitchen of the unwanted animal.

Jan asks:

Why is the (global) state of subtitling and closed captioning so bad?

a/ Subtitling and closed captioning are extremely efficient ways of learning new languages, for example for immigrants wanting to learn the language of their new country.

b/ Furthermore video is now offered on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, televisions… but very frequently these videos cannot be played with sound on (a phone on public transport, a laptop in public places, televisions in busy places like bars or shops,…).

c/ And most importantly of all, it is crucial for the deaf and hard of hearing.

So why is it so disappointingly bad? Is it just the price (lots of manual work still, despite assistive speech-to-text technologies)? Or don’t producers care?

UberAlex responded:

It’s interesting to look at the fan-sub community, where they can be a labour of love. They are often considered far superior translations to the official ones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fansub