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Thursday assorted links

by on July 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. No tip, but an economics card instead (don’t try this on your next date).

2. “As many as 20 percent of Haverford’s economics majors — many of them baseball players — choose baseball or sports as the subject of their thesis.”

3. Someone likes a William Vollmann novel.  There are other rave reviews, but so far I can’t get through the first five pages.  Still, I admire what he is trying to do.

4. You people made a mistake when you stopped buying CDs.  Here is Alex Ross on the same.

5. Wage insurance? (ha)

6. Arab Gulf states vastly outspend Iran on military.  And paper and packaging are still a $132 billion a year industry.  The key medium for the new ads for paper is…the internet.

7. An even greater stagnation.

Wednesday assorted links

by on July 29, 2015 at 12:12 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The ingenuity of evil?

2. Brink Lindsey: Low-hanging fruit guarded by dragons.

3. Prospective markets in everything: a vegetarian patty so similar to meat that it appears to bleed.  And will one device change how we cook forever?

4. Amazon’s plan to fill the sky with drones and end the great stagnation.

5. The White House report on occupational licensing (pdf).

6. The game theory of Uber? (speculative)

Killing lions right outside of park boundaries seems like a systemic problem, not just a one-off instance:

Between 1999 and 2004 we undertook an ecological study of African lions (Panthera leo) in Hwange National Park, western Zimbabwe to measure the impact of sport-hunting beyond the park on the lion population within the park, using radio-telemetry and direct observation. 34 of 62 tagged lions died during the study (of which 24 were shot by sport hunters: 13 adult males, 5 adult females, 6 sub-adult males). Sport hunters in the safari areas surrounding the park killed 72% of tagged adult males from the study area. Over 30% of all males shot were sub-adult (<4 years). Hunting off-take of male lions doubled during 2001-2003 compared to levels in the three preceding years, which caused a decline in numbers of adult males in the population (from an adult sex ratio of 1:3 to 1:6 in favour of adult females). Home ranges made vacant by removal of adult males were filled by immigration of males from the park core. Infanticide was observed when new males entered prides. The proportion of male cubs increased between 1999 and 2004, which may have occurred to compensate for high adult male mortality.

The 2007 paper is here (pdf), by Loveridge, Searle, Murindagamo, and MacDonald, via Hollis Robbins.

Tuesday assorted links

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

1. Bud Collier’s assembled artifacts from the history of economic thought.

2. Rajan, control, interest rates, backlash.  Some kind of confusing Indian saga.

3. Christopher Balding’s China update.

4. The self-government revolution in Syria.

5. The decline of the Marines?

6. Is the vinyl bubble sustainable?

7. Can we make sports more dramatic?

Monday assorted links

by on July 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. How bad were the Black Panthers?

2. Spending a night in the robot-staffed hotel.

3. The Chinese stock market crash is worse than you think.

4. New Yorker profile of Varoufakis.  Interesting throughout, covers Obama too, not just the usual even if this seems like familiar territory by now.  “Adding up is the essence of democracy.”  What an excellent line.  The piece is by Ian Parker, and it deserves one of those David Brooks awards.

5. Brains striving for coherence.

6. Daniel Klein on who is a liberal.

7. “…even in relatively egalitarian Sweden, wealth begets wealth.”

We’re going to be hearing more about this topic I suspect, so let’s start by looking at some of the evidence.  For now I’ll turn the microphone over to Xuemin (Sterling) Yan and Zhe Zhang (pdf):

We show that the positive relation between institutional ownership and future stock returns documented in Gompers and Metrick (2001) is driven by short-term institutions. Furthermore, short-term institutions’ trading forecasts future stock returns. This predictability does not reverse in the long run and is stronger for small and growth stocks. Short-term institutions’ trading is also positively related to future earnings surprises. By contrast, long-term institutions’ trading does not forecast future returns, nor is it related to future earnings news. Our results are consistent with the view that short-term institutions are better informed and they trade actively to exploit their informational advantage.

And here is from the Geoff Warren 2014 survey (pdf):

The link between investor short-termism and corporate myopia is not clear cut – While there is some evidence in support of such a link, it is by no mean compelling. Laverty (1996) examines arguments on the existence of short-termism, and points out there is: (1) no clear evidence of flawed short-term oriented management practices; (2) only mixed evidence that stock market myopia encourages corporate short-termism, noting for instance findings of positive stock market reactions to long-term investment by some papers; and, (3) an absence of empirical support for the supposed influence of ‘fluid capital’ on corporate behaviour.

Results of a survey of company management by Marston and Craven (1998) also question the extent to which institutional investors are short-term in focus. While their survey uncovers a perception that sell-side (broking) analysts are focused on the short-term, company management did not consider this the case for buy-side analysts and fund managers. When asked if the buy-side was too concerned with short-term profit opportunities, only 21% agreed while 53% disagreed.

There is more evidence to consider, but I will start by introducing the idea that the standard anti-publicly traded company tropes are not self-evidently true, or at the very least we do not know them to be true.

Baan Thai at 1326 14th St. serves regional Thai cuisine, from four different parts of the country, the attached sushi restaurant serves as a talisman against the uninformed.  Get the tapioca chicken, the Isan sausage, and the Thai vermicelli in chili peanut sauce.  This is one of three or four local places with real Thai food, and thus one of the best dining spots in DC.  The Yelp reviews are nearly worthless, but here is useful WaPo coverage.

Sunday assorted links

by on July 26, 2015 at 4:28 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The importance of upper-tail knowledgeMike Tyson Bitcoin.

2. Long-term interest rates, a survey (pdf).

3. “The median price for someone’s identity was $21.35.

4. Malcolm Gladwell is skeptical about Big Data.

5. The only partially successful history of people mailing themselves in boxes.

6. A hundred cities within Seoul.

7. Another look at the nail salon story.

8. Ed Glaeser reviews Ilya Somin on Kelo and eminent domain.

Saturday assorted links

by on July 25, 2015 at 1:14 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Profile of Terry Tao.

2. Did Medicare D affect outcomes?

3. Is drinking a countercyclical asset in Greece?

4. Drug testing is coming to e-Gaming.

5. Interview with William Vollmann.  I still think the “By the Book” series in the NYT is the single best thing on the web these days.

6. One billion earths in our galaxy alone?  Uh-oh.  I don’t regard all that frozen water on Pluto as good news either.

7. Kremer and Miguel respond on the worm wars (pdf).

Friday assorted links

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

1. I am sorry people, I can no longer tell what is satire and what is not.  I am so sorry.

2. Chinese Communists preferred.  And China overtakes U.S. as top ice cream market.  And Adam Sandler strikes the Taj Mahal, not the Great Wall.  Read also about Captain Phillips at the bottom of that piece: “The reality of the situation is that China will probably never clear the film for censorship,” wrote Bruer. “Reasons being the big Military machine of the U.S. saving one U.S. citizen. China would never do the same and in no way would want to promote this idea. Also just the political tone of the film is something that they would not feel comfortable with.”

3. A guide to the worm wars, not Dune though, sorry.  Goldacre responds in the comments.

4. Robert F. Graboyes, Fortress and Frontier in American Health Care, a new eBook.

5. Should Greece have defaulted in 2010?

6. Against culinary communism.

7. One of the best summaries of what we know about the minimum wage.

Recent overweighting to stem A-share plunge has made China Securities Finance Corp (CSF), central bank-backed refinancing institution, among top 10 shareholders of many listed-firms, reported Securities Times on Wednesday.

Among all investments, eight firms have been confirmed of the CSF’s stake, which include property developer Dulexe Family, Hualan Biological Engineering, resource purifying developer SJ Environment Protection, Yunnan Tin Company Group, Fujian Cosunter Pharmaceutical Co, Hunan Er-Kang Pharmaceutical Co, digital map provider NavInfo Co, and retailer Friendship&Apollo.

The CSF has been listed as the second-largest holder of tradable shares at Cosunter Pharmaceutical, third largest at SJ Environment Protection, and fifth-largest shareholders at Yunnan Tin Company, according to the Times citing disclosures to Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.

There is more here, by ChinaDaily, via Patrick Chovanec.  I wonder how they are planning to unwind all of those share purchases?

Thursday assorted links

by on July 23, 2015 at 12:31 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Discourse on inequality.

2. Two months of Soylent.

3. The upside of bride prices?

4. Henry on the Very Serious People.

5. Imprisoned books.

6. “That’s why the saga of these two deworming trials should be regarded as a pivotal point in history.

7. Is the media becoming a wire service?  Also read the cited pieces at the end of the article.

8. The Krugman vs. Moore debate.

Wednesday assorted links

by on July 22, 2015 at 1:51 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Daniel Davies defends the 2010 bailout of Greece.

2. Indian markets in everything: Andhra Pradesh pays beggars to stay away from festival.  Many are trying to claim the benefit, but verification of beggar status is required.

3. What are the most popular picks on freshman reading lists?

4. The tiny islands where Canada and America are at war (puffin photo too).

5. “Sex likely developed as a cellular survival strategy, possibly due to oxidative stress caused by mitochondria.

6. Singapore arts festival, September in NYC, more here.  Be there or be square.

7. Uh-oh.

I mean that question quite um…seriously.

Paul Krugman, who I believe originated the concept, recently defined it as follows: “…someone distinguished by his faith in received orthodoxy no matter the evidence.”  I would rather have something less normative and also more specific.

I think of it this way: the People are Very Serious if they realize that common sense morality must, to a considerable extent, rule politics.  At least if voters are watching.

So what is common sense morality in this context?  It embodies a number of propositions, including, for instance (with cultural variants across nations):

1. Political decisions should be based on what people and institutions deserve, based on their prior conduct and also on their contributions to the general good.

2. Economic nationalism.

3. Traditional morality, based on respect for authority, repayment of debts, savings, and hard work.

4. Inflation is bad, in part because it violates #1 and #3, and in the case of the eurozone it often violates #2 as well.

5. “I don’t care what you all say, the government should be able to find some way of arranging things so that I don’t have to suffer too badly from this.”

Now here’s the thing: common sense morality very often is wrong, or when it is right that is often with qualifications.

Therefore at the margin there is almost always a way to improve on what the Very Serious People are pushing for.  The Very Serious People realize this themselves, though not usually to the full extent, because they have been cognitively captured by their situations.  They see themselves as “a wee bit off due to political constraints,” instead of “a fair amount off due to political constraints.”  So there is usually some quite justified criticism of the Very Serious People.  Common sense morality is needed at some level, but still at the margin we wish to deviate from it.

That said, it is a big mistake to try to throw the Very Serious People under the bus.  The Very Serious People understand pretty well how to deal with a public which believes in some version of 1-5, and furthermore they often know that such public beliefs, whatever their limitations, are useful too.  Anyone else trying to manage the situation may come up with some favorable breakthroughs, but also may make a total hash of it, as was the case with Syriza.  Syriza failed to realize the import of 1-5 for both domestic and foreign politics,and so they drove the Greek economy to the point of total desperation.  There is a nested game going on, where the public has a big say on the heavily publicized issues, and the politicians must in some way heed that.

If you want to try the “replace the Very Serious People” game, and assume the subsequent risks, that is a judgment which can be made.  The mistake is to think that the partial wrongness of the Very Serious People is necessarily a reason to take matters out of their hands.

Addendum: Via Tim, here is the entry on Very Serious People on RationalWiki, it seems Atrios first put forward the concept.  And here are the remarks of Tsipras.

Tuesday assorted links

by on July 21, 2015 at 12:58 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The politics of Silicon Valley and the Democratic Party.

2. The end of rhino privacy.

3. Against the mobile web.  And Felix Salmon on related issues.

4. “There’s a joke: I’m not heterosexual, I’m not homosexual, I’m aerosexual.”

5. The worst poems of the last one hundred years?

6. Dani Rodrik’s new home page.

7. The French Scrabble champion does not speak French.