Uncategorized

Friday assorted links

by on September 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Ava Gardner at 13.

2. Why don’t elephants explodeA claim that the wind shortage is a data illusion.

3. 2015 was not a year of significant U.S. wage gains.  And New York City ramps up its war against Coase.

4. Chelsea Clinton for President.

5. IS-LM really did fail for the 1980s.

6. Long-run migrant elasticities are larger than short-run migrant elasticities.  And I sometimes say, only partly tongue in cheek, “the future comes first to Israel and Singapore.”  And Henry Farrell interviews Joshua Ober on ancient Greece.

7. The NBER nudge, based on the order in which papers are presented.

America’s hottest author apparently has been thinking about economics, as you can see on page one:

It wasn’t as if Pip felt good about making fun of her mother.  But their dealings were all tainted by moral hazard, a useful phrase she’d learned in college economics.

Or later:

“America put too much carbon into the atmosphere, renewable energy could help with that, federal and state governments were forever devising new tax inducements, the utilities were indifferent-to-moderately-­enthusiastic about greening their image, a gratifyingly non-negligible percentage of California households and businesses were willing to pay a premium for cleaner electricity, and this premium, multiplied by many thousands and added to the money flowing from Washington and Sacramento, minus the money that went to the companies that actually made or installed stuff, was enough to pay 15 salaries at Renewable Solutions and placate its venture-capitalist backers.”

There is even some Widow’s Cruse:

Their theory was that the technology-driven gains in productivity and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs would inevitably result in better wealth distribution, including generous payments to most of the population for doing nothing, when Capital realized that it could not afford to pauperize the consumers who bought its robot-made products.

Ted Gioia liked it.  Laura Miller liked it.  Here is a useful Christian Lorentzen review.  Here is Colm Toibin’s take:

“Purity,” in other words, depends more on story than on style. It can seem, in fact, as though there is a battle going on in the novel between the slackness of its style and the amount of sharp detail and careful noticing, especially regarding Pip’s role as a damaged innocent in need of rescue and redemption. Most of the time, there is something oddly invisible about the style, so that you do not notice it as the plot moves from event to event.

Overall, after sixty-one pages of reading, I would not dissuade the eager, nor would I attempt to convert the skeptical.  I am closer to the latter group, as the main theme, described by Sam Tanenhaus as “the false idolatry of the digital age,” is too close to my daily life to interest me further; it’s Raskolnikov, Captain Ahab, and Colonel Kurtz for me.  It is Beauty is a Wound, by Eka Kurniawan from Indonesia, that I am waiting for: “There is much dying in the novel.”

Thursday assorted links

by on September 3, 2015 at 12:38 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What Tobin really thought.

2. Is most of the world’s biodiversity underground?  Paper is here.

3. And you thought gdp revisions were tough.  At least this one was in the upward direction.  By a lot.

4. Preschool for robots.  And “The Cotsbot robot, which has a vision system, is designed to seek out starfish and give them a lethal injection.

5. Bill Easterly’s development economics reading list (pdf).

6. Is Singapore the future of language?

7. Is a private blockchain just a database?

newfoundland

Of course the United States should take in more Syrians, but we are not the only laggard:

Of the 4 million Syrians who have fled their country since the war began, including hundreds of thousands who have poured into Europe, the number who have been resettled in Britain could fit on a single London Underground train — with plenty of seats to spare.

Just 216 Syrian refugees have qualified for the government’s official relocation program, according to data released last week.

By the way, not long ago there were over 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria (pdf), I wonder how they figure in all the recent numbers we are seeing.

Before the 1920s, large numbers of Syrians (Syrian-Lebanese) emigrated to Brazil, most of all to Sao Paulo, with a second and smaller wave coming in the 1950s.  As of March:

Since 2013 when Brazil opened its doors, 1,740 Syrian refugees have been registered in the country – far more than in the US.

But still that is not many compared to the preexisting total.  According to the above link, Brazil has about 15 million Arabs and about three million people of Syrian descent, and by virtually all accounts this connection has benefited the rest of Brazil too, not just the migrants.

Here is my earlier post Will Latin America Stay Underpopulated for Another Century?  And can you guess where that top photo is from?

In academia, no, but in the real world perhaps:

Electricity generated by US wind farms fell 6 per cent in the first half of the year even as the nation expanded wind generation capacity by 9 per cent, Energy Information Administration records show.

The reason was some of the softest air currents in 40 years, cutting power sales from wind farms to utilities…

“We never anticipated a drop-off in the wind resource as we have witnessed over the past six months,” David Crane, chief executive of power producer NRG Energy, told analysts last month…

Standard and Poor’s put a negative outlook on bonds issued by two wind farm companies as their revenues tracked wind speeds lower.

“Although our current expectation is that the wind resource will revert back to historical averages, at this time it is unclear when that will happen,” the rating agency said.

Wind generated 4.4 per cent of US electricity last year, up from 0.4 per cent a decade earlier. But this year US wind plants’ “capacity factor” has averaged just a third of their total generating capacity, down from 38 per cent in 2014. EIA noted that slightly slower wind speeds can reduce output by a disproportionately large amount.

The Gregory Meyer FT article is here.  Here are some earlier articles on wind speeds slowing down, some of them appear to be reputable.  According to this recent article, for parts of 2015 wind speeds may be 20-50 percent below average in the American West.  Caveat emptor, but food for thought.

Wednesday assorted links

by on September 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The Chinese local debt situation is getting worse.

2. Will self-driving cars have windscreen wipers?  And are the cars too safe and hesitant?

3. First fully automated restaurant, hope you like quinoa.

4. Has the U.S. economy become less interest rate-sensitive? (pdf)

5. Why Christopher Balding doesn’t believe Chinese gdp figures.  And Europe, according to China, funny, recommended.

6. Eduardo Porter on Mexican migration.

I’ve covered these ideas before a number of times, but now the Chinese slowdown is common knowledge, so let’s put them in one place:

1. You can’t invest 45-50 percent of your gdp very well forever.  It’s amazing how long China’s run has been, but it is over.  The quality of their marginal investments is now low and that means their growth rate will be much lower too.  The low hanging fruit is gone, at least for the time being.  They might later on resurrect some new low-hanging fruit through institutional reform, we’ll see if they end up stuck in the middle income trap but right now they are at a sharp discontinuity.

2. There is no simple way to switch to a “consumption-driven” economy without the growth rate both falling and staying permanently lower.  Structural reforms are absolutely called for, but in this context they represent a surrender to a lower rate of growth and thus they are especially difficult to pull off in a politically sustainable manner.

3. The Chinese have been growing at ten percent or nearly ten percent for about thirty-five years.  More than a generation of Chinese is used to treating the risk premium as if they don’t have to worry about it.  I shudder to think what economic and also political decisions have been made on that basis.

4. The Chinese economic response to the dwindling of their low-hanging fruit is sharp rather than smooth because there is a sudden revision of expectations, as people realize the risk premium isn’t zero after all.  And seeing the others see that causes the new set of beliefs to spread pretty quickly.  That is a very painful process for a macroeconomy, and it is not well captured by simple AD-AS analysis, although of course it has implications for both AD and AS.

5. I would not so quickly infer that the Chinese government is stupid when it comes to economics.  It is true their actions do not correspond to what professional economists would recommend.  But they are painted into a very unpleasant corner and have lots of interest groups to feed.  Their observed response is possibly explained by some kind of public choice-constrained, nested game, internal conflict-driven seventh-best response.  They were smart a few years ago, and they are still smart now.  That doesn’t mean they will end up doing a good job.

6. Avoid mood affiliation!  You can be a pessimist about the Chinese recession now without being a) a pessimist about China in the longer run, or b) a pessimist about Chinese political stability.  Those are separate albeit related questions, and you are not forced to have the same mood response to all of them.

Keep this primer on hand at all times.  It is more useful than trying to twist the C + I + G tautology into a series of causal statements about China.

Tuesday assorted links

by on September 1, 2015 at 11:29 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Laura Miller on Elena Ferrante.

2. In praise of law reviews and jargon-filled academic writing.  And more on the marginal value of a good teacher.

3. Why do people do good spontaneously?  And Harvard responds to complaints about its faculty health planMore on the crack team of Chinese monkeysDramatic but not ridiculous claims about China.

4. Scott Sumner dissents on reach for yield.  I don’t think easier money will boost the American economy right now.  So I think you just get a loanable funds effect and then possibly a reach for yield.

5. Peak things?

6. “The world’s longest yard sale runs for nearly 700 miles along a mostly vertical line connecting Alabama and Michigan, from the first Thursday in August through the first Sunday. It’s called the 127 Sale, since most of it takes place along US Route 127, but that road ends in Chattanooga.

Facts about Mexicans

by on September 1, 2015 at 1:36 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

In 2012, 5.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico lived in the U.S., down about 1 million from 2007. Despite the drop, Mexicans still make up a slight majority (52% in 2012) of unauthorized immigrants. At the same time, unauthorized immigration overall has leveled off in recent years. As a result, net migration from Mexico likely reached zero in 2010, and since then more Mexicans have left the U.S. than have arrived.

There is more at the link, might I have found this reference through Michael Clemens?

From the FT:

The likes of Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, and Ivory Coast have all issued foreign currency dominated sovereign bonds in recent years.

Ghana is one African nation with a history of debt crises (pdf), and also dating back to the 1980s (pdf).  Tanzania was another offender, both current and past (pdf), and for a while a lot of lending to Africa dried up and that limited the number of possible debt crises.  But now…?

Here is Amadou Sy at Brookings, telling us it is not yet time to worry.  Here is the African Development Bank worrying a bit more than that:

Today, a third of African countries have debt to GDP ratios in excess of 40 percent. The outstanding sovereign debt for Africa as a whole increased 2.6 times between 2009Q2 and 2015Q2. In contrast, total debt in developing countries rose 2.3 times over the same period. The appreciation of the dollar has raised the nominal currency values of dollar denominated debts. Thus Africa’s outstanding bond debt is already 29 percent higher today in real terms than it would have been had the dollar remained at its March 2011 level…

Here is Andrew England at the FT:

A recent note by Fathom Consulting highlighted a 40 per cent year-on-year dip in Chinese imports from Africa for July. Martyn Davies, chief executive of Frontier Advisory, a group that specialises in Africa-China investment, says there is anecdotal evidence of an easing in Chinese activity on the continent. “The hurdle rates of Chinese sovereign wealth investment, or part sovereign wealth fund invested projects in Africa have been raised so the capital is more discerning and seeks greater profitability,” he says.

Here is my previous post on which countries are most likely to experience the next financial crises.

Monday assorted links

by on August 31, 2015 at 1:07 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Human capital leading up to the Industrial Revolution.

2. How will European cinema fare under a single digital market?  “Is he a collaborator?”

3. In America, is there too much TV?

4.  What the Chinese 2008 stimulus looked like.  And the Chinese use a bevy of animals to clear the parade skies.

5. How is the Greek election shaping upExit interview with Olivier Blanchard.

6. Consumption inequality tracks income inequality by more than we used to think.  Is scalping ruining the Disney dining experience?

Will Syria *ever* come back?

by on August 31, 2015 at 7:07 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

In just 4 years, over half of Syria’s population of 22m has been killed, displaced or fled the country.

Tweet here, by Paul Kirby.

Sunday assorted links

by on August 30, 2015 at 5:16 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Ten misunderstandings about beer (the culture that is China).  And does “ethical food” taste better?

2. Oliver Burkeman makes claims about sleep.

3. Interview about microscopes and other things.

4. The Manchurian recession.

5. Ruth Leger Sivard has passed away: “With what she knows, she has every right to get on a rooftop and scream,” Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy wrote in 1986. “Instead, after 10 years of analyzing what 142 of the planet’s governments spend their citizens’ money on, she remains a clarifier. The field is small. Few are as skilled.”

6. Various airport ratings, including which countries’ citizens rate airports the highest and lowest.

Utah fact (estimate) of the day

by on August 30, 2015 at 11:10 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

One of my web searches turned up a study from Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) on the demographics of Mormons. According to the ARIS study, there are now 150 Mormon women for every 100 Mormon men in the state of Utah—a 50 percent oversupply of women.

The article considers data on Orthodox Jews as well, via Jodi Ettenberg.

Solve for the equilibrium, as they say, and please consider as many different variables as possible…

A very good paragraph and a half

by on August 29, 2015 at 3:06 pm in Books, Uncategorized | Permalink

Claire Messud on Elena Ferrante in the FT:

…the novelist remains true to her broadest undertaking: to write, with as much honesty as possible, the unadorned emotional truths of Elena Greco’s life, from timid peasant schoolgirl to respected literary icon, riven always between her origins and her ambitions, between her intellectual pursuits, her romantic desires, and her maternal responsibilities — always with Lila as her fractured mirror.

I’ve pressed Ferrante’s novels on friends with mixed results. Some fall upon the books with a familiar eagerness, but by no means all: one woman said, of My Brilliant Friend, “How’s it different from Judy Blume? Just girls getting their periods.” But I end up thinking that the people who don’t see Ferrante’s genius are those who can’t face her uncomfortable truths: that women’s friendships are as much about hatred as love; that our projections determine our stories as much as does any fact; that we carry our origins, indelibly, to our graves. To imbue fiction with the undiluted energy of life — to make of it not just words upon a page but a visceral force — is the greatest artistic achievement, worth more than any pretty sentences: Ferrante has done this, if not perfectly, then with a rare brilliance.

Here is a good review of Ferrante from The Economist.  As I’ve been saying for a while, this is one of the important literary projects over the last decade or more.  And of course we still don’t know who Elena Ferrante really is, her (his?) true identity remains a secret.  And here is the new Vanity Fair interview with Ferrante.