Two Burundi officials have been imprisoned after the African country’s president was allegedly “roughed up” in a football match they organised.

President Pierre Nkurunziza is a ‘born-again’ evangelical Christian who spends much of his time travelling Burundi with his own team, Haleluya FC. He travels with his own choir, “Komeza gusenga”, which means “pray non-stop” in the local Kirundi language.

On 3 February, his team faced a side from the northern town of Kiremba.

Normally, the opposition is well aware they are playing against the country’s president, and it has been said they go easy in the games, even perhaps allowing Nkurunziza to score.

But as the Kiremba team contained Congolese refugees who did not know they were playing against Burundi’s president, they “attacked each time he had the ball and made him fall several times”, a witness told AFP.

Kiremba’s administrator Cyriaque Nkezabahizi and his assistant, Michel Mutama, were imprisoned on Thursday, the news agency reports.

AFP cited a judicial source as saying they had been arrested on charges of “conspiracy against the president”.

Here is more, via Ray Lopez.

From one recent ESPN report:

And Bird would always say, “Did Laimbeer make it? [the All-Star game]” And I would say, yes or no, and if it was no, he’d be like “Oh, good. Cause then when I get on the bus and he says, ‘Hi, Larry’ I don’t have to say, “F— you, Bill.” So we can bleep that out, OK? But that’s the old days.

Windhorst: I can actually hear Larry saying that.

MacMullan: That’s the old days. But the new days, these guys are all friends. I’m just amazed at the camaraderie between teams.

Today, ESPN presents “the three unwritten rules for NBA trash talking,” the first being “Don’t make it personal.”  The second is “Be quiet on the bench.”  Where’s the trash?

I am honored to have been able to do this, here is the podcast and transcript.  The topics we covered included…the ideas of Robin, most of all: “With Robin, we go meta. Robin, if politics is not about policy, medicine is not about health, laughter is not about jokes, and food is not about nutrition, what are podcasts not about?”

Here is one exchange:

COWEN: Let’s say I’m an introvert, which by definition is someone who’s not so much out there. Why is that signaling? Isn’t that the opposite of signaling? If you’re enough of an introvert, it doesn’t even seem like countersignaling. There’s no one noticing you’re not there.

HANSON: I’ve sometimes been tempted to classify people as egg people and onion people. Onion people have layer after layer after layer. You peel it back, and there’s still more layers. You don’t really know what’s underneath. Whereas egg people, there’s a shell, and you get through it, and you see what’s on the inside.

In some sense, I think of introverts as going for the egg people strategy. They’re trying to show you, “This is who I am. There’s not much more hidden, and you get past my shell, and you can know me and trust me. And there’s a sense in which we can form a stronger bond because I’m not hiding that much more.”


COWEN: Here’s another response to the notion that everything’s about signaling. You could say, “Well, that’s what people actually enjoy.” If signaling is 90 percent of whatever, surely it’s evolved into being parts of our utility functions. It makes us happy to signal. So signaling isn’t just wasteful resources.

What we really want to do is set up a world that caters to the elephant in our brain, so to speak. We just want all policies to pander to signaling as much as possible. Maybe make signals cheaper, but just signals everywhere now and forever. What says you?

HANSON: I think our audience needs a better summary of this thesis that I’m going to defend here. The Elephant in the Brain main thesis is that in many areas of life, perhaps even most, there’s a thing we say that we’re trying to do, like going to school to learn or going to the doctor to get well, and then what we’re really trying to do is often more typically something else that’s more selfish, and a lot of it is showing off.

If that’s true, then we are built to do that. That’s the thing we want to do, and in some sense it’s a great world when we get to do it.

My complaint isn’t really that most people don’t acknowledge this. I accept that people may be just fine leaving the elephant in their brain and not paying attention to it and continuing to pretend one thing while they’re doing another. That may be what makes them happy and that may be OK.

My stronger claim would be that policy analysts and social scientists who claim that they understand the social world well enough to make recommendations for changes—they should understand the elephant in the brain. They should have a better idea of hidden motives because they could think about which institutions that we might choose differently to have better outcomes.

And of course I asked:

COWEN: What offends you deep down? You see it out there. What offends you?

And why exactly does it work to invite your date up to “see my etchings”?  And where is “The Great Filter”?  And how much will we identify with our “Em” copies of ourselves?  There is also quantum computing, Robin on movies, and the limits of Effective Altruism.  On top of all that, the first audience question comes from Bryan Caplan.

You should all buy and read Robin’s new book, with Kevin Simler, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.

I will be having a Conversation with her on March 19, in Arlington at George Mason University.  So what should I ask?

I thank you all in advance for your usual enthusiasm and sagacity.

Intrepid entrepreneurs have plunged into icy Finnish water in an eccentric contest to win funding for their business ideas.

Polar Bear Pitching allows start-up firms to put forward their projects to investors for as long as they can stand in the freezing temperatures.

The final of the Dragon’s Den-style competition will see a dozen companies put their plans under the noses of investors.

The winner of the two-day contest — which takes place in frozen sea near Oulu on February 6 and 7 — will receive €10,000.

Start-ups who have secured funding say standing in such cold water helps convince investors they are serious.

Here is the article and photo, via Danica Porobic.

[NBA star John] Wall is shooting 42 percent, his lowest mark since he was a rookie, and he just hasn’t played with enough vigor on either end of the floor. One measure of that: He has spent 76.57 percent of floor time either standing still or walking, the largest such share among all rotation players, according to tracking data from Second Spectrum. Dirk Nowitzki is right behind Wall, and he’s almost 40.

That is from Zack Lowe at ESPN.  By the way, Wall was just named to the NBA All-Star team.

After reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules, a few people asked me what my list would look like.  I would stress that what follows is not a universal or eternally valid account, but rather a few ideas that strike me in the here and now, perhaps as the result of recent conversations.  I suspect the same is true for everyone’s rules lists, so please keep this in perspective.  Here goes:

1. Assume your temperament will always be somewhat childish and impatient, and set your rules accordingly, knowing that you cannot abide by rules for rules sake.  Hope to leverage your impatience toward your longer-run advantage.

2. Study the symbolic systems of art, music, literature. and religion, if only to help yourself better understand alternative points of view in political and intellectual discourse.  Don’t just spend time with the creations you like right away.  Avoid “devalue and dismiss.

3. When the price goes up, buy less.  Try to understand what the price really is, however, and good luck with that.

4. Marry well.

5. Organize at least some significant portion of your knowledge of the world in terms of place, whether by country, region, or city.  If you do that, virtually every person will be interesting to you, if only because almost everyone has some valuable knowledge of particular places.

6. When shooting the basketball, give it more arc than you think is necessary.  Consistently.

7. Learn how to learn from those who offend you.

8. Cultivate mentors, and be willing to serve as mentors to others.  This never loses its importance.

9. I don’t know.

10. Heed Cowen’s Three Laws.

11. Do not heed Cowen’s Three Laws.

12. Every now and then read or reread Erasmus, Montaigne, Homer, Shakespeare, or Joyce’s Ulysses, so that you do not take any rules too seriously.  The human condition seems to defeat our attempts to order it.

This is really a paper about alcohol, and indeed “the a word” dominates the very first paragraph of the text, here is the abstract:

Jason M. Lindo, Peter Siminski and Isaac D. Swensen

This paper considers the degree to which events that intensify partying increase sexual assault. Estimates are based on panel data from campus and local law enforcement agencies and an identification strategy that exploits plausibly random variation in the timing of Division 1 football games. The estimates indicate that these events increase daily reports of rape with 17–24-year-old victims by 28 percent. The effects are driven largely by 17–24-year-old offenders and by offenders unknown to the victim, but we also find significant effects on incidents involving offenders of other ages and on incidents involving offenders known to the victim.

That is from American Economic Journal: Applied Economics; from that same issue we also learn that “…increases in [Russian] alcohol prices would yield significant reductions in mortality.”

Baseball has dominated the cultural and sporting life of Palau for almost 100 years, which is about four times longer than Palau’s been an independent nation. Over the years, Palauans have shaped the game to fit their island lives. Kids learn to play with bamboo bats and coconut-leaf balls. Pitchers chew betel nut instead of dip. Monsoons rain out not just games and series, but entire seasons of league play. Local traditions of witchcraft have crossed over into the country’s sporting life; even today, it’s not uncommon for accusations of black magic to fly after particularly contentious games. (I’ve been reporting on and off from Palau for seven years, so I’m used to it. THIS pitcher’s dad was a known wizard; THAT team’s manager caught women from an opposing village burning leaves over home base.) Baseball as it’s played in Palau is a decidedly Palauan thing.

But baseball has also shaped Palau. It’s more than a national pastime here. It’s an organizing principle—or, more accurately, a re-organizing principle. Before the 20th century, Palau was a matriarchy. Women controlled most aspects of society, and men were limited to fishing, fighting, and handling village-to-village diplomacy. Then colonial rule brought centralized government—and baseball—to the archipelago. Ever since, these two male-dominated worlds have fed on each other, with Palau’s baseball leagues serving as a kind of farm system for government service. Scores of congressmen, senators, diplomats, and heads of state have passed through Palau’s dugouts on their way to political power.

Here is much more, from David Walker, and here is Wikipedia on Palau.  For the pointer I thank Stephen Jonoes.

Michael R. Ransom and Tyler Ransom have a new paper on this question:

We examine the extent to which participation in high school athletics has beneficial effects on future education, labor market, and health outcomes. Due to the absence of plausible instruments in observational data, we use recently developed methods that relate selection on observables with selection on unobservables to estimate bounds on the causal effect of athletics participation. We analyze these effects in the US separately for men and women using three different nationally representative longitudinal data sets that each link high school athletics participation with later-life outcomes. We do not find consistent evidence of individual benefits reported in many previous studies – once we have accounted for selection, high school athletes are no more likely to attend college, earn higher wages, or participate in the labor force. However, we do find that men (but not women) who participated in high school athletics are more likely to exercise regularly as adults. Nevertheless, athletes are no less likely to be obese.

The pointer is from the excellent Kevin Lewis.  Kevin also refers us to this paper: “…the large portion of the variance in a four-item economic egalitarianism scale can be attributed to genetic factor[s].”

It should be collaborative rather than adversarial:

Integration is a common policy used to reduce discrimination, but different types of integration may have different effects. This paper estimates the effects of two types of integration: collaborative and adversarial. I recruited 1,261 young Indian men from different castes and randomly assigned them either to participate in month-long cricket leagues or to serve as a control group. Players faced variation in collaborative contact, through random assignment to homogeneous-caste or mixed-caste teams, and adversarial contact, through random assignment of opponents. Collaborative contact reduces discrimination, leading to more cross-caste friendships and 33% less own-caste favoritism when voting to allocate cricket rewards. These effects have efficiency consequences, increasing both the quality of teammates chosen for a future match, and cross-caste trade and payouts in a real-stakes trading exercise. In contrast, adversarial contact generally has no, or even harmful, effects. Together these findings show that the economic effects of integration depend on the type of contact.

That is from a new paper by Matt Lowe, and Matt is a job market candidate coming out of MIT.

And here is a recent paper by Devesh Kapur, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Lant Pritchett and D. Shyam Babu, on the benefits of modernity for Dalits, here is one short bit of the abstract:

The survey results show substantial changes in a wide variety of social practices affecting Dalit well-being—increased personal consumption patterns of status goods (e.g. grooming, eating), widespread adoption of ―elite‖ practices around social events (e.g. weddings, births), less stigmatising personal relations of individuals across castes (e.g. economic and social interactions), and more expansion into nontraditional economic activities and occupations.

That said, please do not confuse “big improvements” with “no serious problem.”

China degree of the day

by on November 6, 2017 at 1:42 am in Education, Sports, Web/Tech | Permalink

Competitive video game tournaments enjoy a huge following in China, and now, 18-year-old Feng is among 60 students enrolled in the country’s first-ever college program specializing in esports.

Last year was a landmark year in the world of esports. In September, “esports and management” was added to the Ministry of Education’s list of permitted college majors. Three months later, the Communication University of China, Nanguang College, in Nanjing announced the launch of its own esports-related degree: Art and Technology (Esports Analysis), a four-year undergraduate program teaching event organizing, data analysis, gaming psychology, video content production, and esports team coaching. According to the school, graduates can expect to carve out careers in China’s booming esports industry as tournament organizers, online show producers, commentators, strategy analysts, and club managers.

Here is the full story, from the consistently interesting Sixth Tone. And note:

Staffordshire University in the U.K. will offer an undergraduate esports program starting in September 2018, while a number of U.S. colleges now provide esports scholarships for talented gamers.

Just don’t tax their tuition waivers!

Re: the rebuilding attempts of the Philadelphia 76ers:

[John] Wall shed light on an underrated issue when he said: “The toughest thing you have is two young players that want to be great. Sometimes it might work, and sometimes it might not work.”

Think about that. Here’s what Wall is saying: It’s easier for stars to coexist when there is more separation of age and aspiration and an understanding of the hierarchy. Wall and Beal figured it out. The Sixers have three young potential all-stars trying to mix individual accolades and team success at once.

Wizards center Marcin Gortat cited asymmetric information:

“You know what the hardest thing for the young man is?” Gortat said during a recent interview. “We all enjoy diamonds. We all enjoy women. We all enjoy cars and beautiful houses, trips, the best parties and the life. The hardest thing is to come at 6 o’clock in the morning to the gym when nobody watches you. It’s easy to play when you have 20,000 people in the stands — women, cheerleaders, actresses, models, front-row celebrities — but it’s really hard to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and go to the gym and work on your left hand. This is the hardest part, when nobody’s watching.”

Here is the full Jerry Bewer story.  I watched two games with Philadelphia and Milwaukee, to update my knowledge of the NBA a bit, and now I’ll return to my rabbit hole for a while.

Request for requests

by on October 17, 2017 at 9:18 am in Sports, Weblogs | Permalink

What would you all like to hear about?  I do pay some heed, sometimes.

Celebrity Misbehavior

by on October 11, 2017 at 2:26 am in Economics, Law, Sports, Television | Permalink

From Todd D. Kendall:

Casual empiricism suggests that celebrities engage in more anti-social and other socially unapproved behavior than non-celebrities. I consider a number of reasons for this stylized fact, including one new theory, in which workers who are less substitutable in production are enabled to engage in greater levels of misbehavior because their employers cannot substitute away from them. Looking empirically at a particular class of celebrities – NBA basketball players – I find that misbehavior on the court is due to several factors, including prominently this substitutability effect, though income effects and youthful immaturity also may be important.

Elsewhere, here is a Kaushik Basu micro piece on the law and economics of sexual harassment.  And a more recent piece from the sociology literature.  The practice increases quits and separations, with some of the costs borne by harassment victims and not firms; given imperfect transparency, recruitment incentives may not internalize this externality.  On other issues, here is a relevant AER article.  And this piece applies an insider-outsider model.  Here is Posner (1999), perhaps he has changed his mind.  Here is work by Elizabeth Walls, from Stanford.

I see negative externalities to sexual harassment across firms and sectors, and so, contra Posner (1999) and Walls, the most just and also efficient outcome is to tolerate one explicit and transparent form of the practice in the sector of formal prostitution and otherwise to keep it away from normal business activity.  I believe such a ban boosts womens’ human capital investment, investment in firm-specific skills, aids the optimal production of status, and limits one particular kind of uninsurable risk, with all of those benefits correspondingly higher in an O-Ring or Garett Jones model of productivity.