Assorted links

by on January 31, 2015 at 12:38 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Portland carpet markets in everything.

2. “Whole Foods, Half Off.”

3. China’s war against VPNs.

4. It’s a human/computer partnership at Netflix.

5. Does NPR “sound too white”?  And I hope there are hidden Danish fees in here.

6. Aging whales, and “What is your favorite breed of domestic pig?

Nonetheless it is considering tolerating them, as we are told by Air Genius Gary Leff.  Here is one short bit:

The tourism minister says that even though the Greek Prime Minister is attacking all-inclusive resorts as it identifies problems with the country’s economy, it has no plans to make crackdown on these properties ‘its mission’.

How reassuring.  Greece needs some Very Serious People in charge!  Right now it doesn’t have them.  And as you know, one thing worse than the Very Serious People is…the Not Very Serious People.  I think someone told them that all-inclusive resorts might drain off domestic aggregate demand (p.s. investment matters too, including for demand).

Oh, had I mentioned that tourism provides 15% of Greek gdp? (higher by some estimates, perhaps up to 20%).  I’m all for debt forgiveness in this context, but right now the Greeks need to get serious or they will tumble off the cliff and soon.

…blogging, for better or worse, is proving resistant to scale. And I think there are two reasons why.

The first is that, at this moment in the media, scale means social traffic. Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don’t deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don’t go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand.

Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. Alyssa Rosenberg put it well at the Washington Post. “I no longer write with the expectation that you all are going to read every post and pick up on every twist and turn in my thinking. Instead, each piece feels like it has to stand alone, with a thesis, supporting paragraphs and a clear conclusion.”

The other reason is that the bigger the site gets, and the bigger the business gets, the harder it is to retain the original voice.

That is from Ezra Klein, there is more here.  (I recall Arnold Kling making a related point not too long ago, does anyone have the link?)

If you haven’t already noticed, we have no plans to chase traffic from social media, at least not by changing our basic interests and formula.

Here is another thread I found online:

“The majority of time that people are spending online is on Facebook,” said Anthony De Rosa, editor in chief of Circa, a mobile news start-up. “You have to find a way to break through or tap into all that narcissism. We are way too into ourselves.”

There is more here, from David Carr, mostly about selfie sticks and Snapchat.  The human desire to be social used to be a huge cross-subsidy for music, as young people used musical taste to discover and cement social alliances.  Now we don’t need music so much to do that and indeed music plays a smaller role in the lives of many young people today.  This has been bad for music, although arguably good for sociability and of course good for Mark Zuckerberg.

The “problem” is that the web gives people what they want.  Those who survive as bloggers will be those who do not care too much about what other people want, and who are skilled at reaping cross-subsidies.

Addendum: Kevin Drum offers comment.

Assorted links

by on January 30, 2015 at 11:55 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Chemists find a way to unboil eggs.  And the Obama administration targets occupational licensing.

2. Jodi Beggs example database for Principles of Economics course.

3. When writing about China, it is much easier to acknowledge the importance of the top one percent.  A very good post, #moodaffiliation.

4. Afghan carpet weavers are putting drones on their rugs.

5. Will new technology lead to ultraropes, much longer elevator shafts, and much taller cities?

6. Why the left wing sometimes finds it hard to succeed, follow-up post here, I’m not saying you should read those through.  And do more expensive placebos work better?  Original paper here.  And here is Ross Douthat on same.

7. People identified through credit card use alone, often as few as four transactions.

8. Interview with Charles Plosser.

Sarah O’Connor reports from the FT:

Pay inequality has lessened in the UK during the past three years because the real wages of highly paid employees have fallen more steeply than those in low-paid jobs.

While there is concern about high levels of income inequality in the UK, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank suggests the squeeze on wages has been more acute at the top than the bottom. It also shows that men have fared worse than women and the young worse than the old.

The full story is here.

Further assorted links

by on January 29, 2015 at 2:48 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How smart is the unconscious mind?

2. Mexico City nudge markets in everything, they can no longer say “I don’t give a squat.”

3. The culture that is New Zealand.

4. Is Nigeria also an overrated economy?

5. Price theory summer camp at Chicago.

6. Profile of the new Niskanen Center.

Assorted links

by on January 29, 2015 at 5:01 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The new Bloomberg business and economics site.  What do you all think?  And The Guardian will sell ads based on time.

2. Janos Kornai reflects on post-reform Hungary (pdf), important to note that history can run backwards.

3. WaPo on my hypothesis that northern Virginia is becoming two different places.  I liked this piece, but the front page sub-headline (“…Fairfax will fail”), probably not from the author, isn’t descriptive of my views.  I don’t want Fairfax to become like Arlington, and in many ways I prefer the future of Fairfax, although admittedly it will be “less Millenial.”  Perhaps the WaPo sub-headline writers did not consult the MR vocabulary guide, under which “dumpy” usually means “good.”

4. Republish of my earlier post that Andrew Sullivan has been the most influential public intellectual of the last twenty-five years.

5. theworstthingsforsale.com.  And here is a relevant Amazon product, truly markets in everything.  Do you get the point?  “They’ve monetized an Amazon technicality,” Anna writes to me.

In addition to my earlier pick of Chile, I now must nominate Sweden and Norway for this honor.  Both are wonderful countries, and in absolute terms very likely to remain strong performers.  But I think a good deal of that old Nordic magic is slipping away, and this has become more evident in the last few years.

Let’s start with Sweden and maybe I’ll get to Norway another time:

1. The average product of their education system seems to have declined rather rapidly, as measured by test scores.  On PISA they have gone from #4 to #21.

2. Arguably the basic Swedish economic social model is inconsistent with their level of immigration, and I don’t see them switching to a different economic and social model anytime soon.  You can be pro-immigration, and still not think Sweden is honing in on the right mix of domestic policy and immigration policy.

3. Swedish manufacturing seems to be deindustrializing at a faster than expected pace.  And some of Sweden’s most successful sectors are exposed to a lot of competition from emerging markets, in particular because they rely heavily on engineering talent.  Sweden also has a significant presence in financial services, but they are not an obvious future winner in that area.  And do timber, hydropower, and iron — their main commodity exports — have such a promising future?  There are probably few disasters lurking here, but lots of question marks.

4. Sweden doesn’t seem to have a lot of low-hanging fruit left.  Female participation in the labor force already is high, and they already have done lots of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation.  It is not clear where the next generation of policy improvements will come from.  The McKinsey report recommends “increasing government productivity” as a major source of potential gains, but that is hardly easy, even for the Swedes.

5. The Swedish central bank seems to have scored an “own goal” by engaging in premature tightening, coming out of the earlier recession.  They’ll make much of that up over time, but still it is a sign the country has lost some mojo.

6. Sweden’s household to debt ratio is about 170%, one of the highest in the world.  This is not only troubling in its own right, but arguably it is a sign debt is being used to make up for a slow accumulation of underlying economic deficiencies, as was the case in the United States.  Furthermore “Four in 10 mortgage borrowers in Sweden are not paying off their debt, according to data collected by Reuters, and those that are repaying the principal are doing so at a rate that would on average take nearly a century.”  They are probably still in the middle of a housing bubble.

7. There is an erosion of support for mainstream Swedish political parties.  You don’t have to approve of those parties to see this as a symptom of a very slight underlying political rot setting in.  The “extreme Right” party has seen a rapid rise in support.

8. A rampaging Putin probably won’t harm them directly, but still recent Russian events raise geopolitical risk in their neighborhood.

Don’t worry, the Swedes will do fine, but they have arrived at officially overrated status.  I was more sanguine about their prospects a few years ago than I am today and I would not invest in their stock market.  If you wish to count their pluses however, they still have a very good system of government, a strong ethic of trust and cooperation, a good ability to change course when necessary, high productivity, a strong presence in information technology, a wonderful export capacity, low public debt, and first-rate proficiency in English, among other virtues.

That all said, the Swedish currency is actually down against the euro since the beginning of the year.

Assorted links

by on January 28, 2015 at 1:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How do pot dealers operate in a blizzard?

2. John Cochrane on why the Swiss broke their peg.  And John on the new unemployment insurance results.

3. The Russian “blockade diet” will indeed help you lose weight.  And The Haggis Lollipop.  And China police suspended after dining on enormous salamander.

4. The top one percent, state-by state; for a given income it is easiest to break into the top in New Mexico, toughest in Connecticut.

5. UK museums are hiding away art works depicting The Prophet Muhammad.

6. How good was Maria Callas?  And Paul Krugman on the game of chicken unfolding in Greece (and Germany).

7. How Raghu Rajan is reshaping economic debate in India.

8. The guy behind Bounded Gaps Between Primes: “No one who knows him thinks that he is suited to a tenure-track position.”

Yanis Varoufakis

by on January 27, 2015 at 6:46 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

He is an economist, taught last year at UT Austin, and is now the new finance minister of Greece.  You can find him here on scholar.google.com.  And here is his 2011 proposal for overcoming the euro crisis, another version of that here (pdf).  Here is his blog post on the Scottish Enlightenment.  Previously he was working as an economist for Valve, a video game company.  Here is Yanis on EconTalk with Russ Roberts.  The discussion of Greece and the eurozone starts at about 48:22.

His blog is here, he claims he will continue blogging:

The time to put up or shut up has, I have been told, arrived. My plan is to defy such advice. To continue blogging here even though it is normally considered irresponsible for a Finance Minister to indulge in such crass forms of communication. Naturally, my blog posts will become more infrequent and shorter. But I do hope they compensate with juicier views, comments and insights.

Here is a good Telegraph profile of the man.  Here is his Wikipedia page, and here is one excerpt:

In 2005/6, Varoufakis travelled extensively with artist Danae Stratou along seven dividing lines around the world (in Palestine, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Kosovo, Belfast, Cyprus, Kashmir and the US-Mexico border). Stratou produced the installation CUT: 7 dividing lines, while Varoufakis wrote texts that then became a political-economic account of these divisions, entitled The Globalising Wall. In 2010 Stratou and Varoufakis founded the project Vital Space.

Stay tuned, this will be fun.

Assorted links

by on January 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “Between 2007 and 2013, the millennial population of Arlington grew by 82 percent — more than anywhere else in the country.”  And are big cities too small?

2. Even at Fox News more employees donate money to the Democrats.

3. Toyota now to pay on the basis of performance rather than seniority.

4. Flows vs. stocks in Greece.  And the Syriza coalition partner isn’t nice, nor does the selection send a good signal.

5. Can online education bend the cost curve?  And UCLA students on global warming.

6. Why do some women prefer submissive men?

7. RortyBomb on unemployment benefits.  Scott Sumner comments too.

8. A short video on the life of Sir Arthur Lewis.

Table 1 shows that adding estimates from the literature suggests that economists have already explained 177% of the rise in average BMI.

That is from this new NBER paper, by Courtemanche, Pinkston, Ruhm, and Wehby, which seems to be one of the most careful studies to date.  They do it right and then offer some more commonsensical conclusions:

A growing literature examines the effects of economic variables on obesity, typically focusing on only one or a few factors at a time. We build a more comprehensive economic model of body weight, combining the 1990-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System with 27 state-level variables related to general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking. Controlling for demographic characteristics and state and year fixed effects, changes in these economic variables collectively explain 37% of the rise in BMI, 43% of the rise in obesity, and 59% of the rise in class II/III obesity. Quantile regressions also point to large effects among the heaviest individuals, with half the rise in the 90th percentile of BMI explained by economic factors. Variables related to calorie intake – particularly restaurant and supercenter/warehouse club densities – are the primary drivers of the results.

Here is a much earlier ungated version of the paper, with differing numerical estimates, use with caution.  A few related studies you will find here.

“How can the Spanish or Italian prime minister tell voters that Greece has a lower interest burden than we have, but we still need to give them debt forgiveness?” said Mr Darvas.

That is from Ferdinando Giugliano at the FT, who is referring to the possibility that the Greek debt load might be sustainable.  Don’t focus on the debt to gdp ratio of 175 percent, consider that the interest rates are low and the term structure of the debt is long.  Here is your Greece fact of the day:

Mr Darvas calculates that total interest expenditure in 2014 [for Greece] was 2.6 per cent, only marginally above France’s 2.2 per cent.

Yet I do not find the Greek position to be sustainable.  As has been the case from the beginning, the real problem in the eurozone is in the politics, not the raw numbers of the economics.  It is worth noting that there are Maoist and Trotskyite factions in Syriza, so if we are going to moralize about the National Front in France, or other disreputable groups, let’s be a little more consistent here…

Assorted links

by on January 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why has this battery lasted for 175 years?  (Didn’t they read Coase?)

2. Scott Sumner movie and book reviews.

3. Ogilvie and Carus, a long essay on institutions and economic growth.

4. Daniel Davies on Greek scenarios.  And Alan Krueger: “But did the fall in wages lead to a fall in export prices?

5. Interview with Peter Boettke.  And how D’Angelo managed Black Messiah.

When I visited Santa Monica in January it struck me how much it reminded me of…Arlington.  Arlington is now essentially a part of Northwest, at least Arlington above Route 50 or so.  Arlington and Santa Monica have never been more alike, or less distinctive.

Parts of east Falls Church will meld into Arlington, and south Arlington will become more like north Arlington.  Real estate prices east/north of a particular line are rising and west of that line are falling.  Fairfax is definitely west of that line.

The Tysons Corner remake will fail, Vienna is not the new Clarendon, and the Silver Line and the monstrously wide Rt.7 will form a new dividing line between parts of Virginia which resemble Santa Monica and parts which do not.

Incumbents aside, no one lives in Fairfax any more to commute into D.C.  Why would you?  The alternatives are getting better and Metro parking became too difficult some time ago.  Fairfax is not being transformed, although some parts are morphing into “the new Shirlington.”  Most of it will stay dumpy on the retail side.  Annandale will stay with Fairfax, whether it likes it or not.

For ten years now I have been predicting various Fairfax restaurants will close — casualties of too-high rents — and mostly I have been wrong.  The good Annandale restaurants are running strong too.  Annandale won’t look much better anytime soon, thank goodness for that.

“Northern Virginia” is becoming two different places, albeit slowly.