Assorted Sunday links

by on March 1, 2015 at 3:17 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Buy and hold for eighty years.

2. Is this a full-body transplant, or a head transplant?  And what life on Titan might be like.

3. The correct link for meta-IRBs.

4. Orphan tourism may do harm.  And barter markets in everything.  And markets in everything perfectly spherical chicken egg edition.

5. What do we learn from data mining Indian food recipes?

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar update.

Jamil Anderlini reports:

As China’s two-year-old anti-corruption campaign rages on, an article attacking a long-dead Manchu prince from the late 19th century has prompted frenzied speculation over the fate of one of the country’s most powerful Communist party elders.

For centuries Chinese politicians have used abstruse historical allegory to attack rivals without confronting them directly.

So when China’s top anti-corruption authority published an article on Wednesday afternoon detailing the evil deeds of “Prince Qing”, the internet went into overdrive with theories over who the real target could be.

By far the most popular guess is Zeng Qinghong, vice-president of China until 2008, right-hand man to former President Jiang Zemin and one of the most powerful politicians of modern China.

The FT story is here.

Over at Vox, Mr. Money Moustache notes:

The first trick is to remind yourself that buying something — pretty much anything — is very unlikely to improve your long-term happiness. Science figured this out for us long ago, but not many people got the memo. Go to your junk electronics drawer and look at your old flip phones or your dusty iPad 1. Look at the clothes you’ve recently pruned from your closet that are now headed to the Goodwill. You traded a lot of good dollars for those, not very long ago at all. Are they still making you happy today?


…I try to get people to think of things in 10-year chunks at a minimum and then move on to a lifetime perspective. For example, spending $100 per week on restaurants equates to a $75,000 hit to your wealth every ten years, compared to keeping that money and just investing it in a conservative way.

If I understand him correctly, he recommends a very high savings rate and very early retirement.

From an individual point of view, my worry is that happiness may not go up much in this early retirement and in fact it may go down; people seem to enjoy working, which is good for their health and their social involvement.  Perhaps Mr. Money Moustache derives a sense of purpose from spreading this gospel, but most people would end up bored and indeed frustrated if they retired at age thirty as he has (apparently) done.

From a social point of view, if everyone did this, productivity would collapse.  Workers over the age of thirty make the world go round, and teach and pass down skills to others.  When you retire involves an external cost or benefit, and retirement can come either too early or too late.

I’ll note in passing that my “dusty iPad 1″ gave me an enormous amount of pleasure, as does my later iPad.  And I wish my old flip phone still worked!  Sadly, it is no longer still making me happy today.

Addendum: Ryan Decker comments.

Saturday assorted links

by on February 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The fiasco that is the Nicaragua canal.

2. 15 year old makes 500k a year in the babysitting business.

3. Markets in everything.

4. Bryan Caplan’s totally conventional views.  And Scott Sumner on those views, and whether Bryan is consistent in his views on love.

5. How the culture that is German views Yanis (video, unusual, not like Bryan’s conventional views.  Or is it?).

6. My earlier post Modeling Vladimir Putin.

Assorted Friday links

by on February 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How important is cutlery design anyway?

2. The Palestinian city without water.

3. Good further story on the machinations of LSU professor Johnny Matson, but Michelle Dawson should be getting more of the credit for this expose.  It was her earlier stream of tweets which led to the uncovering of these rather dubious practices.

4. Should we remove investor-state dispute settlement from free trade agreements?

5. China wars against Tocqueville.  And Putin’s teenage fan club.  Full slideshow is here.

6. Meta-IRB.

7. Keith Hall, formerly of Mercatus and GMU, will be the new CBO director.

Assorted links

by on February 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Fritz is long land.

2. Dynamic pricing for ski lifts.

3. Can demographics affect inflation and monetary policy?

4. Bank of England says high-frequency trading is OK.

5. John Lanchester reviews Average is Over and Second Machine Age.

6. Strange lights on dwarf planet Ceres have scientists perplexed.

I’ve been receiving numerous requests for more of my “totally conventional views,” and someone asked me about HRC.  We’ve never covered her in the past, so why not?  But by construction of this series, none of what follows is at all new and probably there won’t be any discussion in the comments.  But with that in mind, I’ll offer up these points:


1. Women are judged far more by their looks than are men, and Hillary’s are not right for the presidency.  She doesn’t seem composed enough, schoolmarmish enough a’ la Thatcher, and frankly many men, when they see her in their mind’s eye, imagine a voice saying “Look here, buster…!”  Her hair is not properly ordered for the Executive Office, and I suspect many Americans want for their first female President to appear somewhat ageless.  I am not suggesting any of this is fair or even an efficient form of Bayesian statistical discrimination, but it is a reality.

2. If not for factor #1, a healthy Hillary would be a shoo-in for demographic reasons, but as it stands her chances of winning are overrated.

3. A Clinton Presidency is the most likely of any, from the major candidates, to serve up significant and enduring market-oriented reforms.  She could bring along enough Democrats to work with the Republicans, and reclaim a version of the old Clinton legacy.  That said, her presidency also is more likely to effect change in the opposite direction as well, so the net expected value here is hard to calculate and still may be negative.

4. Given #1 and #2, and other gender-related factors, your opinion about Hillary, no matter what it may be, is less reliable than you think.  That suggests you should think about her less rather than more (sorry people for this post, what did Wittgenstein say about that ladder?), because I don’t think you’re going to see much of a payoff from grabbing here at that third derivative.

5. The willingness of the Clinton Foundation to solicit donations from foreign governments and leaders is corrupt, and yet mostly receives a free pass, in spite of some recent coverage on corporate donations.  I read recently they might stop soliciting donations “…if Hillary runs for President,” also known as “hurry up and give now!”  Arguably we would be electing a political machine as President of the United States, even more than usual.

6. Democratic intellectuals and operatives are quite unexcited — or should I say “fervently and passionately unexcited” — about the prospect of a Hillary candidacy.  The energy is already drained from the room, and they haven’t opened the door yet.

7. There is still the question of how the press, and the American people, might process any subsequent revelations about Bill’s “activities” since leaving the White House.

8. It will be hard to avoid giving the public “Hillary fatigue,” given how many years she has been in the public eye.  This is another reason why I think her chances are overrated, plus she will have to be very careful to carry herself in the debates just the right way, see #1 and #2 again.

9. It is easier to transcend race than gender.

Assorted links

by on February 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Measuring the quality of NBA defenders.  And digitalizing NFL players.  Both are interesting pieces.  And don’t ridicule Manny Pacquiao.

2. An interview with a guy.

3. Vermont, Gruber.

4. Paul Krugman on superstars and the economics of music.  I think of the era of the music superstar as having peaked in the 1980s or so.

5. Old photos of old economists, lots of them.  And the story behind the sale of the Kuznets medal.

6. Peter Railton on depression.

7. Tarkovsky films now free on line.

China pigeon markets in everything

by on February 25, 2015 at 9:21 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

This is also not new news, but it is new to me:

In May 2013, Chinese businessman Gao Fuxin set a new record, paying 310,000 euros ($351,000) in an online auction for a pigeon named Bolt, after Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

It seems also that the pigeons, before a race, are given performance-enhancing drugs.  But:

Expensive birds such as Bolt are simply too valuable to race. They’re put out to stud after being auctioned. “In pigeon racing, blood is everything,” says Mike Ganus, a breeder and racer in Granger, Indiana, who sells about 500 birds a year to China. “If you don’t have the genetics, you won’t have a winner, no matter what you do.”

The full story is here.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes:

The big problem is profitability. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time, a week or at most a few months. So profits have to be made on brief usage. Furthermore, any new antibiotics that might be developed to fight these drug-resistant bacteria are likely to be used very sparingly under highly controlled circumstances, to slow the development of resistant bacteria and extend their usefulness. This also limits the amount that can be sold.

Assorted links

by on February 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. State governments are pre-empting local government interventions.

2. There is no great snowplow stagnation!

3. Did intervention in Libya just make everything worse?

4. The Great Reset, in a single picture.

5. Critics of Greek austerity are basically asking for a free lunch.  You never hear them compare more aid to Greece to more aid for a developing nation, for instance.  And 7-11 charcuterie.

6. David Brooks reviews Hamilton, the musical.

Assorted links

by on February 23, 2015 at 10:35 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Modeling economic civil war and protection in Somalia, and why Islam has an advantage.

2. Witches of Chiloé.  And the price of condoms in VenezuelaReal world development indicators.

3. Greek debt/eurozone rap video, best is Merkel.

4. Why it is better to read on paper.  And there is no great beehive stagnation.

5. The values of different Nobel Prizes, market price data.

6. The most unhappy singles in China?

Ironically, given all the concerns about robots destroying jobs, Mr Tsuda said one of the main constraints on the market’s growth was a shortage of human engineers.

“To use robots — not just to make them — you need quite a level of engineering,” he said. “If anything, for us and the market as a whole, growth is held back by the number of engineers who can do that.”

From Robin Harding at the FT, there is more here.

Assorted links

by on February 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Unusual “review” of 50 Shades of Grey.

2. Markets in everything: the hippopotamus sofa.

3. The Greek artist who hacks the euro.  And here are fictional banknotes for the Hungarian euro.

4.”Do Not Cite or Circulate.

5. Eric Voegelin: “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!

6. What should Greece do now?  And Paul Krugman thinks the Greeks got an OK deal.

The Economist, referring to “six-party politics,” reports:

In 1951 the Conservative and Labour parties together scooped 97% of the vote; in May, opinion polls suggest, they will each win barely a third.

You will note that the UK has a fairly strict “first past the post” system, so if such fragmentation happens in their system perhaps it could happen anywhere.  A second Economist article offers a few hypotheses about why this is happening:

1. People are now used to shopping in markets, and on the internet, for exactly what they want.

2. Politics has become increasingly multi-dimensional; this article cites the possibility that a “libertarian-authoritarian” axis may be replacing “left-right,” or consider the issue of Scottish independence.

3. Perhaps current politicians are less skilled than Thatcher and Blair at attracting the allegiance of a broad cross-section of British society.

I worry that the general decline of discretionary government spending may make politics less stable (but also more interesting, not necessarily in a good way).  When there is plenty of spending to bicker about, politics revolves around that question, which is relatively harmless.  When all the spending is tied up, we move closer to the battlefield of symbolic goods, bringing us back to “less stable and more interesting.”  If that is a cause, this trend is likely to spread.  (In a new paper David Schleicher argues that electoral reform may not stop polarization and splintering.)

Arguably a good deal of American politics is a cloaked debate over whether a particular kind of Christian worldview ought to enjoy higher or lower social status.  Since Britain doesn’t have much religion, perhaps that is why they are fragmenting in so many other directions.  Exactly which British debate is supposed to be imposing the uni-dimensionality on the political spectrum?