Saturday assorted links

by on May 30, 2015 at 1:10 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The sports culture that is Texas.  Which is also an argument for a Pigouvian approach.

2. Isn’t this from a Monty Python skit or something?

3. India arrests pigeon accused of spying for Pakistan.

4. Visualizing how the best firms drive inequality.

5. Minnesota Lost and Found.

6. The rise of elitism in economics.

7. Varoufakis’s Great Game?

Friday assorted links

by on May 29, 2015 at 11:28 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The culture that is Wisconsin.

2. One first person account of “the wife bonus.”

3. Branko Milanovic on FIFA corruption.

4. Utah fights against homelessness.

5. Indian MIE: the “Luft-wafer.”

6. Can nostalgia boost creativity? (speculative)

7. The economics of ad blockers.  And more relevant material here.

Assorted links

by on May 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The limits of self-driving trucks?

2. Indian public announcements.

3. United had men-only flights until 1970.

4. Profile of Hélène Rey (pdf).

5. Canada is the world’s biggest exporter of lentils.

Joel Shurkin reports:

Ants — most are teeny creatures with brains smaller than pinheads — engineer traffic better than humans do. Ants never run into stop-and-go-traffic or gridlock on the trail. In fact, the more ants of one species there are on the road, the faster they go, according to new research.

Researchers from two German institutions — the University of Potsdam and the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg — found a nest of black meadow ants (Formica pratensis) in the woods of Saxony. The nest had four trunk trails leading to foraging areas, some of them 60 feet long. The researchers set up a camera that took time-lapse photography, and recorded the ants’ comings and goings.

…Oddly, the heavier the traffic, the faster the ants marched. Unlike humans driving cars, their velocity increased as their numbers did, and the trail widened as the ants spread out.

In essence ants vary the number of open lanes, but they have another trick as well:

“Ant vision is not that great, so I suspect that most of the information comes from tactile senses (antennas, legs). This means they are actually aware of not only the ant in front, but the ant behind as well,” he wrote in an e-mail. “That reduces the instability found in automobile highways, where drivers only know about the car in front.”

Driverless vehicles can of course in this regard be more like ants than humans.

I suggest two plans, each of which I have been able to implement in a partial way only:

1. Take the train around to random first, second, and third tier Chinese cities.  Many of them will have their own cuisines, or they will represent a nearby regional cuisine.  It’s like discovering the food of a new country.  Imagine if Shandong province were a separate country!  How compelled you would feel to visit it for the food, often considered China’s foundational cuisine, plus it uses the finest vinegars.  And yet, because it is part of “China” (Gavagai!), you feel you already know something about Chinese food and thus the need to sample it is not so pressing.  Redo your framing, and rush to some of the lesser visited parts of China.

By the way, you can stay in the second or third best hotel in most Chinese cities for only slightly more than $100 a night, and yet receive five star treatment and quality.

2. How many provinces does China actually have?  I don’t wish to litigate that dispute, but most of them have restaurants devoted to their regional dishes in Beijing.  These are state-owned restaurants, and most of them are excellent.  Furthermore they are scattered around town, so if you visit them all you will see many parts of Beijing.

A month in Beijing should allow you to visit them all, plus the air pollution really is better these days.

I should add that western China has by far the best raisins I have sampled in my life, most of all the big red raisins.  Until my trip to Xi’an, I had never actually tried a real raisin with the real raisin flavor.  Forget the Terra Cotta Warriors, discover what a raisin is!

Assorted links

by on May 27, 2015 at 2:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Critical review of the Alice Goffman book.  Like Alex, I thought the felony made the whole thing more interesting, though of course I do not approve.

2. Fertility is rising for educated women.

3. Has there been a supercapacitor breakthrough?

4. The Future Library.  Will anyone care?

5. The Chinese strategic tradition.  Will anyone care? (yes)

6. John Nash on encryption.

7. New Politico site on ideas and policy.

Assorted links

by on May 26, 2015 at 12:49 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Claims about the Irish recovery (not my view, but worth a read)

2. Sticker shock for Obamacare?

3. Bronze Age Danish woman wore garment from outside of Denmark.

4. New material on John Nash, interview with Sylvia Nasar.

5. Sleeping Beauty papers: “The longest sleeper in the top 15 is a statistics paper from Karl Pearson, entitled, ‘On lines and planes of closest fit to systems of points in space’. Published in Philosophical Magazine in 1901, this paper awoke only in 2002.”

6. Why the oldest person in the world keeps on dying? (less trivial than you might think)

7. Adam Thierer on how the sharing economy overcomes lemons problems.

Monday assorted links

by on May 25, 2015 at 11:53 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Japanese planned markets in everything uh-oh.

2. I still prefer MapQuest.

3. And I thought rice was an inferior good.

4. How far can a Montrealer go on a hoverboard?  (guess before clicking)

5. Short video of John Nash’s recent meeting with Magnus Carlsen.

6. “…economists starting or graduating from their PhD in a recession are significantly more productive in academia over the long term than economists starting or graduating in a boom.” (speculative)

7. Is China launching the world’s biggest fiscal stimulus (again)?

8. Indians.

China fact of the day

by on May 25, 2015 at 3:14 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Given that non-financial total corporate debt is estimated by McKinsey to amount to $12.5tn, Chinese companies are paying on a nominal basis some $812bn in interest payments each year. In real terms, this amounts to $1.35tn. This is not only significantly more than China’s projected total industrial profits this year; it is slightly bigger than the size of a large emerging economy such as Mexico.

The entire FT discussion is here.

R. asks me:

I’ve been reading your blog for years and it remains my favorite. I am an attorney planning to travel for 1-2 months in Eastern/Northern Asia and Europe this fall before starting work at a law firm. Since you are so widely traveled, I would love to read a post listing the most memorable places you’ve traveled or travel experiences you’ve had.

An answer to that could fill many books, but here is a simple rule to start: follow the per capita gdp.  Perhaps my favorite travel experience of all time is Tokyo, but more generally I say master the area lying between London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Madrid, give or take.  There are so many high quality sights and experiences to be had there you can chunk it many different ways.

If you wish to visit the United States, specialize in the eastern seaboard, Chicago, but most of all southern Utah down to the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, much better than the southern rim but book in advance.  That latter part of the country has perhaps the world’s most compelling natural beauty, plus a good look at real American culture along the way.  For all its fame, it remains oddly under-visited (thank goodness).  Toss in San Francisco for good measure, and then drive through some godforsaken parts for a few days, the worse the better.

For the emerging economies, I say Beijing and Mumbai are good places to start, how can you not wish to be introduced to a country of a billion people or more?  Mexico City is extremely underrated, especially if you live nearby in North America, just don’t expect English to be spoken.  By the way, it is safer than you might think.  Then spend some serious time in the countryside, almost any safe (or unsafe) emerging economy can serve this function.


The author is Michael North, and this new and excellent book, when it comes to the earlier centuries, emphasizes the role of Swedes and Germans in shaping a region of prosperity and trade.  The most interesting section (starts p.239) is about the 1920s, when the Baltic nations underwent a radical deindustrialization, due to their severing from the Russian empire.  That is when they deviated from the Nordic economies, which for the most part continued their industrialization.

I also recommend Sverre Bagge, Cross & Scepter: The Rise of the Scandinavian Kingdoms from the Vikings to the Reformation.  If nothing else, this book will make you wonder if the recent success of the Nordic nations are in fact so deeply historically rooted after all.  As North (p.205) points out: “Industrialization arrived in all of these countries relatively late.”  Tom Buk-Swienty’s 1864: The Forgotten War That Shaped Modern Europe is a good book on how and why Denmark lost so much territory to Prussia/Germany.

Sunday assorted links

by on May 24, 2015 at 10:40 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What should you study to stay ahead of the computers?  That is by Robert Shiller.

2. And economists offer advice to today’s graduates.

3. Ellen Chisa on what she learned from Harvard Business School.

4. Is the mainstream surf industry headed for doom?

5. Leo Kottke Up Tempo.

6. Interview with Claudia Goldin.

In 2007 in an effort to increase the number of girls enrolled in school the government of Bihar in India gave each schoolgirl of age 14 a bicycle. The excellent Karthik Muralidharan and co-author Nishith Prakash set out to discover whether the program was effective. To jump to the conclusion they found that the program increased the enrollment of girls by 41% reducing the gender gap by almost half.

The reason for this post, however, is not the result–important as it is–but the two videos the International Growth Center made to explain Muralidharan and Prakash’s research methods. The first video explains the background of the research and then gives a very elegant explanation of triple-differences as an estimation strategy.

The second video explains that the researchers still weren’t completely happy that they had truly identified a causal effect (or perhaps the referees were not completely happy) so they hit on a complementary approach, looking for a dose-response relationship. With the collection of more data Muralidharan and Prakash were able to ask whether the program was more effective for the students who were neither so close nor so far from the school that a bicycle wouldn’t make a difference. Indeed, the program was most effective for students who lived at bicycle-relevant distances.

These videos are an interesting peek at some of the questions economists ask and the methods they use to answer those questions. The videos would be excellent for classroom use–challenge your students after the first video to come up with potential problems with the triple difference method and see if they can identify another research design that would address these problems!

Addendum: Here are previous MR posts on Karthik Muralidharan’s important research program.

Saturday assorted links

by on May 23, 2015 at 8:48 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. This one has something to with Richmond, otherwise I don’t know how to title it.

2. Do innovators find it easier to justify bad behavior?

3. Are New Jerseyans more flammable than other people?  Or something else?

4. Erik Angner, Well-Being and Economics; among other things, a good look at how cardinal utility and interpersonal comparisons overlap with work in post-Sen welfare economics.

5. Easing deposit arbitrage in Europe.

Friday assorted links

by on May 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Appropriating Instagram.

2. Kevin Warsh on optimal committee design for the FOMC.

3. Economics of the craft beer industry.

4. How urban barbecue technologies are developing.

5. Which is a denser city: Los Angeles or Beijing?  By the way, more than half of Beijing’s residents live far from the city center, beyond the fifth ring road.